Missteps Of The X.Org Foundation

Written by Michael Larabel in X.Org on 10 January 2016 at 02:19 PM EST. 6 Comments
With the recent news of X.Org possibly losing its valuable domain, many have commented in our forums and elsewhere how this could have possibly happened... However, in reality, it is sadly not much of a surprise.

The X.Org domain issue is not new and they ran into a similar set of challenges ten years ago when having to renew the domain. However, there have also been other fumbles too, which doesn't make it all that surprising.

While the X.Org Foundation board is represented by volunteers, generally working for large companies who depend upon X / Mesa / Linux, below is a list of some of their past missteps that immediately come to mind over the years... Mainly putting the list out for putting this issue into perspective and with the X.Org board elections coming up and the potential vote about merging with the SPI. Merging with the SPI would at least take care of their accounting and other areas where the organization has generally stumbled to fulfill over the years. Best case, the list will cause some new and motivated people to step up and get involved or at least new ideas how to get the foundation into better shape for being more productive; X.Org developers can churn out great code, but not necessarily the best for running an organization.

- X.Org Foundation previously lost their 501(c)3 status over failure to pay taxes on time. That happened in 2013 but they did manage to regain their 501(c)3 status thanks to help from the Software Freedom Law Center. The issue was summarized by X.Org treasurer Stuart Kreitman in that earlier article, "The status of the 501c3 is lost because we (me) failed to file the 3 past years' tax returns on time. Note that we've Never filed returns since our first re-organization to the LLC in 2005. I was taken by surprize that the IRS hit us so rudely. I've had little issues with my own returns and have always found them to be reasonable and friendly."

- Besides dealings with the IRS, they have had a variety of other accounting and money issues from late payments, losing money with PayPal and various bank account troubles, and other accounting woes. At the last X.Org board meeting it was brought up their latest issue now is trying to pay out an Endless Vacation of Code (EVoC) developer in Africa.

- One of the issues that still frustrates me due to being involved first-hand is with regard to their accounting is when I served as the organizer of XDC2011 Chicago. Through some contacts in Chicago, their ACM organization at the university where it was hosted was able to 'refer' us so that the X.Org Foundation would get a discounted rate for renting out a room there for the conference. However, the X.Org Foundation was so late in paying their (discounted) bill to the university that this student organization -- which really didn't have any tie to X.Org and just doing us a favor -- temporarily had the organization's rights at the university suspended. The bill ended up getting paid, but still shows the sad state of things -- particularly as the bill could be easily paid online, etc. (With Phoronix having sponsored drinks one day during the events, I know how easy their billing system worked and was able to easily pay my bill a few days after the event with ease, from Oktoberfest.)

- The annual XDC meetings are largely left up to the organizer to determine all of the logistics, but some years of the annual X.Org Developers' Conference have been better than others. For example, when at the Edinburgh Zoo a number of years back, it was a beautiful venue but they didn't even end up having a wired or WiFi Internet connection. The 50+ developers ended up having to share a mobile phone's Internet connection from one of the developers.

- Last year when there was the voting process during the annual elections about whether X.Org should join SPI, there wasn't enough votes casted to make for a valid decision per the by-laws.

- There's a cap per the by-laws of the X.Org Board of Directors not being made up of more than members employed by the same company. Due to lack of participation by X.Org members, that has been looked at as an issue at times.

- Some years for the general elections of X.Org board members, there's been a tough time for hitting the 25% quorum. There have also been some cases where the elections have been delayed.

- X.Org Foundation annual reports aren't annual. As you can see from the X.Org Wiki, they have issued "annual" reports in 2010 and 2013.

- Various problems around their EVoC program. Last September they tightened up the rules on EVoC to hopefully avoid future problems.

- A lack of transparency at times. One example if going through the meeting minutes is entire years where there aren't (or incomplete) archived meeting information available for the public.

That's just the brief list of items that came to mind over the weekend. Hopefully in 2016 we'll see more accountability and improvements from the X.Org Foundation and the possibility that they become part of the SPI or some larger organization.
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Michael Larabel

Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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