Message to techies: Identify with your community, not just your industry

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Yelp "Community Managers" from around the world are gathered in the company's San Francisco headquarters.
Steven T. Jones

I appreciated the opportunity to address a couple hundred Yelp community managers from around the world today at the company’s San Francisco headquarters, and to deliver a message that those in the tech industry need to hear: “Be a part of your community, not just your company and industry.”

That idea obviously has a special resonance here in San Francisco, where the tensions between well-paid techies and activists concerned about increasing evictions, gentrification, and displacement have reached a fevered pitch. But it was a message that several people came up to me after the panel to say they appreciated, one that their industry would do well to heed.

Workers of all kinds have more in common with one another than any of us do with our corporate overlords and richest 1 percent of society. The young people at Yelp and other tech companies should want their cities to remain interesting, affordable, and diverse places. Ultimately, we’re all in this together, and we need to remember that cities are communities first, not simply places from which to extract wealth.

As we report in our latest issue, there have been nascent efforts to bridge the gap between tech workers and the rest of us, and I truly hope that some new leaders rise up in the tech world -- workers, not just bosses and investors using manipulative media strategies -- to challenge corporate power and the self-interest of venture capitalists and other tech titans. After all, the greatest promise of tech tools have always been their empowering, informing, and democratizing potential, not just their crassly commercial aspects.  

That said, my comments today were a small part of the discussion, in which I was the print representative on a media panel that included television (the hilarious Liam Mayclem, host of KPIX-TV’s “ Eye on the Bay”), radio (Joel Riddell, host of AM910’s “Dining Around with Joe Riddell”), and online (SFist Editor Brock Keeling).

We offered tips and answered questions about how best to pitch story ideas and get media coverage for their company and clients -- and I was happy to offer my time and advice to fellow members of my community.