9 July 2014 | 25 Comments
A few days ago I wrote a 99% negative post about the infamous Potato Salad Kickstarter project. I almost didn’t write the post at all because I’d much rather spread positivity than negativity, but I was genuinely concerned about the impact that project will have on new project creators. I still am.
The conversation in the comments and elsewhere really challenged me in a good way. Some people agreed with me; others disagreed; others completely missed the point. But as I replied to the comments, I eventually stumbled upon why the project really touched a nerve for me:
Maybe I shouldn’t care so much. If a new creator thinks that Kickstarter is easy money, it’s mostly just their loss. They’ll learn right away that no one cares about their project and that Potato Salad is an anomaly. I guess I care because I was fortunate to discover Kickstarter through a really awesome project, and I learned a lot from that project that I later applied to my campaigns. It set a benchmark for me. I write this blog to help other project creators so they can have a solid benchmark as well. So to have Potato Salad be the benchmark for thousands of people? It just makes me a little sad for those creators that they couldn’t have the benchmark I did.
I appreciate all of the people who participated in the conversation in a civil way for helping me get to the heart of why the project bothered me.
However, in having that conversation, something else started to bother me more and more: The fact that I had written a 99% negative post about, well, about anything. That’s not me. That’s not what I want this blog to be.
So when TheFlyingSheep mentioned on Twitter that someone could write an entry about the positives of this project, I decided to step up and face off against myself. Well, kinda. I still agree with the original post. But I think some positives will come out of Potato Salad as well. Here are some of them:
- It’s funny. That’s the one positive I mentioned in the original post, so I’ll reiterate it here. The project made me chuckle. Laughter is good for your health, so I’m now a little healthier than PPS (“pre-Potato Salad”).
- It builds community. Something cool happens when anything goes viral. People come together and feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. I love that about Kickstarter, and I’m glad to see it happening with Potato Salad.
- It exemplifies how a Kickstarter project can blossom during the campaign. Regardless of Zach’s original intentions (or lack thereof), he’s taken this miracle of a project and run with it. That’s at least one positive thing that new project creaters can learn from this campaign.
- It brings new backers to Kickstarter. As Nicholas Yu wisely pointed out in the comments, Kickstarter has done studies in the past about how mega-projects bring a lot of new backers to the platform. You would think that would be good for everyone, and thanks to Kickstarter’s data, you would be right. In this study about Double Fine Adventure, Kickstarter found that 22% of the new backers went on to back other projects. UPDATE: Kickstarter released some post-Potato Salad data that showed that it brought far fewer new backers to Kickstarter than expected (but a lot of traffic, meaning that people went to Kickstarter via the project, got a [presumably jaded] impression of Kickstarter, and then left without backing anything).
- It encourages creativity and innovation. As Richard Bliss wisely noted in the comments and JR Honeycutt discussed on this video, Potato Salad could usher in a whole new era of creativity on Kickstarter. I’m not talking about the copycat projects, but rather people stretching the boundaries of what can bring joy to people on Kickstarter.
- It might inspire Kickstarter to fix a few things. Some people have said that Potato Salad will encourage Kickstarter to redefine (again) what a project can be. Maybe that will happen. I don’t know if it should happen, but it could. Obviously they don’t want a site filled with potato salads or a site where it’s really hard for a new backer to tell the distinguish the jokes from the rest. Or maybe they’ll create a new category of joke projects. I really liked @blightygamer’s idea of creating a whole new category for joke projects, but requiring that the funds go to charity. That might be a stretch for Kickstarter (which doesn’t allow charity projects), but I like the concept. Also, I’m guessing that Kickstarter will start to lock the accounts of anyone who makes giant pledges just to temporarily inflate a project’s funding and then cancels their pledge a few minutes later.
- It will help all of us creators stop comparing our projects to other projects. One of the things I learned when I ran the Viticulture campaign is that comparing your project to any other project isn’t healthy. It leads to a lot of unhealthy emotions that don’t help you or your backers–it leads us to start thinking about who “deserves” success and who doesn’t. That’s not a good way to live.
- Zach Brown will finally learn how to make potato salad. This is the most important. Making potato salad is a risky endeavor, and Zach mitigated that risk by putting the project on Kickstarter. Thanks to the successful funding, he’s finally going to be able to make his first potato salad.
I think that’s it. Hopefully this post balances the scales a bit–I certainly feel better after writing it! And if you disagree with these points and want to talk about why Potato Salad is bad for Kickstarter, I know a great place for you to comment about that. :)