It has become known as the Patch question heard around the world, or at least around the insular world of print and online journalists. At a recent conference in Washington, D.C., USC Annenberg School of Journalism Assistant Professor Robert Hernandez (pictured) stood up and asked company CEO Tim Armstrong, “Is Patch evil?”
On Friday afternoon, Hernandez got the chance to do an online follow-up chat of sorts with Patch Editor-in-Chief Brian Farnham, who insisted that he LOVED the “evil” question. One of the other interesting nubs of the Typewith.Me conversation came when Hernandez asked Farnham to compare current Patch efforts with a previous hyper-local news initiative he was involved with in the 1990′s, Microsoft’s Sidewalk.com.
Ah, Sidewalk. You know, I was just talking to someone who worked there when I did… We were also remarking that Patch now feels an awful lot like Sidewalk did then… I actually don’t think Sidewalk failed at all – it just wasn’t something that Microsoft ultimately had the confidence to continue… The difference between Sidewalk and Patch is really nothing more than altitude – Sidewalk flew at the pretty-big-city level; we’re much closer to the ground.
To Hernandez’ credit, the “evil” question has opened up a new level of conversation about Patch, on his site and elsewhere. Patch may not be E-V-I-L, but it is certainly L-I-V-E, currently in 361 locales and aiming for 500 by the end of the year.