Saturday, April 13, 2013

Civic engagement for Yammer: will the company state its local issue positions publicly?

So I'm not gonna be all neighborhoody indignation all the time, but I did want to post a followup to the Yammer blog post that offended me into paying attention this past week: [Addendum 7/29/17: an archived version of the Yammer post is here.]

The SF Chron notes this morning re: yesterday's Yammer public service day that it's not voluntarism, it's service required under a tax break agreement. The article is a little irritating with Stanley-and-Livingstone stuff -- "Are they going deep into the Tenderloin or are they just getting to the edge?"-- but there are some telling facts and quotes.

Yesterday's less than voluntary soup-serving and trash removal efforts probably did do good, mainly in the enrichment of tech employees' valuable souls but also in the tidying of local pavements and such. Reminds me of the lawyer in "The Bicycle Thief" who, for his soul, serves as barber to a man who could really use some access to justice -- but, eh, public service is a chance to make human connections across barriers. Never know what lasting benefit might result.

The Chron finds a heartening sign of connection already in 23-year-old account executive Phil McKennan. He's described as volunteering with local kids over the past six months -- a commitment that is surely surplus to requirements, so it's likely largely without pay:
"We get our food at the office, so we don't really need to leave, but we all go to happy hour in the neighborhood," said McKennan, who lives in the Marina. "You have to give back to the community, and this area definitely needs our help."
He sounds like a nice guy. Maybe he needs and gets help from "this area" too in his way. A step out of the Marina's post-collegiate containment zone? A break from the tiring job of selling? What isn't to like?

Now, though, let's get back to the "civic engagement" mentioned by Controller and Director of Community Outreach Jason Rodrigues in his post last week. Direct service labor isn't civic activity in the old-fashioned sense of active participation in self-government. On the other hand, it would be appropriate and neighborly civic participation for Rodrigues and his counterparts to make public statements of their positions on major issues affecting all of us together as neighbors and as presumptive equals before the law.

A good sample issue is the current debate between Supervisors Scott Wiener and Jane Kim over conflicting proposed revisions to our municipal CEQA environmental review ordinance. A few days ago Rodrigues retweeted a comment in which Weiner noted the Examiner newspaper's endorsement of his CEQA proposal. Rodrigues hasn't answered my questions, via Twitter and his weblog, about whether his retweet means Yammer supports the generally business-backed Wiener proposal. This one does matter: the Sierra Club is organizing a petition against it and suggests that, if passed, Wiener's plan could help developers to shove past environmental review stages of projects before local opposition has a proper chance to form. More info on the Wiener proposal is here and here (second link is a legislative analysis PDF). More from the Sierra Club is here. Jane Kim's alternative seems to be numbered as 13-248, summarized at its introduction here.

If Yammer will state its position on the CEQA issue in public we can take it as a start toward demonstrating interest in substantive civic engagement.

I think a refusal to answer will indicate that civic engagement doesn't interest Yammer as much as gratitude.


  1. That would be good for starters. The attempt to re-legislate CEQA is certainly a major issue, the outcome of which will affect all of us for many years, even generations, to come. It's pretty hard to swallow their PR, since it reflects only those things they actually have to do under the terms of their tax breaks.

  2. Just saw your Twitter note saying the Yammer "Mid-Market Matters" blog post that started all this used your photos without permission.

  3. Ironic, isn't it?