The Problem with Potato Salad

7 July 2014 | 114 Comments

photo-mainI very rarely say anything bad about another Kickstarter project, especially on this blog. Who am I to judge another project creator? Just because someone does something differently than I would do doesn’t mean I should speak poorly of them.

However, there is a project happening on Kickstarter right now that I think is bad for Kickstarter. Specifically, it’s bad for new project creators who discover Kickstarter thanks to this project.

I’m talking, of course, about Potato Salad.

Potato salad is a gag project (note: I’m making an inference here). A guy named Zach Brown thought it would be funny (another inference–Zach has not publicly stated that he was trying to be funny) to put a project on Kickstarter in which, if he reached his $10 goal, he would make his first potato salad. “Rewards” include him saying backer names out loud while making the potato salad, a photo of him making the potato salad (he doesn’t specify digital or printed), or a bite of the potato salad (no details in the reward showing how he intended to get that bite to people, but he has since decided to host a party in Columbus after the campaign to provide those bites to backers).

Estimated delivery for all of these rewards: December 2014. Further evidence this project is a joke.

Here’s the twist: in 4 days, Potato Salad has raised over $14,151 from 1900+ backers. Yes. Those are real numbers. (They’re actually fluctuating quite a bit as a few backers are making–and then retracting–$10,000 pledges. Just for fun. No big deal.)

Before I go on, let me say this: As a gag project, Potato Salad is clever. Not as clever as the opposing Death Star and X-Wing Fighter Kickstarter projects, but still clever. I enjoy a good joke, and I’m glad people are deriving joy from the project. I applaud the idea of having fun with backers on Kickstarter (though that usually involves some commitment to interacting with backers–Zach has only made 5 comments in the main forum of his project, the most recent of which was 2 days ago).

Here’s the problem.

This project is really, really bad for new creators who discover Kickstarter who discover the site because of this project. This is their first impression of Kickstarter, and like it or not, first impressions have an impact on us as humans. Here are the myths this project is creating (and persisting) for those people:

1. Kickstarter is free money. I’m sure at some point you’ve seen a project where the creator clearly thought Kickstarter was free money. They slapped something together in their garage over the weekend, somehow got it approved, and launched it a few days later. The thing is, those projects don’t fund. They hardly attract any backers at all. Thus they serve as an excellent warning to other creators about the work they need to put into projects. Potato Salad is doing the exact opposite. It makes Kickstarter look like free money, which is the worst possible perception new creators could have about the site.

2. Getting press for your project is easy. If you’ve ever tried to get press for anything, you know how hard it is. It’s why I advocate actually building relationships with the press (bloggers, podcasters, etc.) so you can have a slim chance of leveraging that press into big press–major website, television news, etc. You create your own luck.

Potato Salad, however, is making it look like all you have to do is put a project on Kickstarter, and the press will come to you. And really uninformed press, at that. Here’s how ABC Columbus introduced their 3-minute segment about the project (this is a verbatim quote): “Kickstart is a funding website where you can help others with a goal–maybe a trip, buying a house, or for Zach Brown, make potato salad.”

Yeah…you can’t use Kickstarter to buy a house.

3. You don’t have to give backers anything in return for their pledge. I already talked about the “rewards” Zach is offering. If you look at most other projects with blase rewards (or way overpriced rewards), you’ll learn right away that they don’t work. Kickstarter isn’t a charity. In fact, the very definition of Kickstarter is that “Projects must create something to share with others.” Potato Salad offers a very, very thin representation of that definition.

4. Actually needing the money isn’t required. The truth is, Kickstarter doesn’t require creators to prove they need the money to make their project a reality, and that’s a good thing–it means that Kickstarter is about much more than just money. But it’s certainly part of the equation. It’s much more compelling to backers if the money actually matters. Plus, Kickstarter’s core guidelines state, “Projects must be honest and clearly presented.” Is Zach Brown being honest that he truly needed $10 to make a potato salad? Obviously not. I get this. You get this. But does random new project creator who saw Zach Brown on the local news get this? Nope.

5. All you need is an idea. One of the myths about Kickstarter is that all you have to do is think of an idea and make a project for it without doing any legwork, research, or preparation. That’s exactly the message Potato Salad sends. This is probably where the parody element is at its highest for this project, accentuated by the opening line, “Basically I’m just making potato salad. I haven’t decided what kind yet.” I get the joke. You get the joke. But do the thousands of burgeoning project creators who discovered Kickstarter through this project get the joke? They have no context about Kickstarter from which to work, so some of them are going to look at Potato Salad’s sheer lack of effort and preparation and think that Kickstarter is a platform for ideas with no legwork or effort whatsoever. (credit to Board-Dom for making this point in the comments)

I have no ill will towards Zach Brown; rather, I’m protective over my fellow Kickstarter creators who try to do the right thing for backers. I’m guessing Zach thought he’d make $10 from a few friends and that would be that. I don’t even blame Kickstarter–they probably got a chuckle out of the project and thought it might attract a few random backers. But now it’s reached a critical mass, and it’s a problem.

What’s worse is that anyone reading this blog entry already knows the truth behind those myths, but no new creators spawned from Potato Salad have any idea this blog exists. I really hope Kickstarter doesn’t approve any of those projects.

I’d love to hear what you think in the comments. And just to reiterate: I understand that the project is funny. That’s not the point. The point is that it gives the wrong impression to new creators who discover Kickstarter thanks to this project. Hopefully they’ll do their due diligence and research other Kickstarter projects before starting their own (based on the flood of similar projects that are diluting the food category, that doesn’t seem to be the case).

Also see: The Positives of Potato Salad

114 Comments on “The Problem with Potato Salad

  1. I think you are missing the point, the project wasn’t just a small gag to be done with friends – its a parody of kickstarter itself. All of those bad traits you pointed out are exactly what its exposing, because in this case its doing all of those things and succeeding, simply by being ridiculous enough. I don’t think new creators who see this project will look at it seriously the way you suspect they will – I think its much more of a gag and a critique of the kickstarter users who already use those techniques.

    1. Potato Defender: I can see that there’s a big element of parody here. However, I think perhaps you underestimate the allure of “easy money” on Kickstarter, especially by people who don’t understand Kickstarter. Based on the publicity this project is getting, I think a lot of people are going to learn about Kickstarter for the first time through this project–this is their first experience, their standard from which to base their KS creator behavior. That’s a problem.

      1. The points you raise in the article all warrant concern, but there could be an upshot to all of this.
        By bringing light to the newer, lower submission standards for a KS campaign, Potato Salad could bring about a higher standard for future projects.

        I doubt it though :)
        My crystal ball seems to think that KS will go extinct if they don’t start taking the consumer’s side and implement some regulations. Make it wiki-style. Hmm… maybe I should register wiki-starter.com!

  2. It will be interesting to see what happens next. There have been several huge pledges added that are probably fake that might also cause problems. Some recent pledges have been about 10k each. The current level is 30k higher than what you reported only a few min ago. I think people messing around with huge pledges like this might cause some serious issue. I really enjoyed the project when it was only a couple of hundred dollars. Now it may be getting out of hand. I still think there is potential it will do more good than bad for kickstarter. It may cause them to add special rules about add and subtracting huge pledges.

    1. Seth: Yeah, the campaign is fluctuating quite a bit because of those fake pledges. I think the damage is already done, though. Kickstarter does have a rule in place that you can’t cancel a pledge within the last 48 hours if it would cause the project to dip below the funding goal, but you’re right that the issue still needs to be addressed. Perhaps some good will come out of this project. :)

  3. It’s over 44k now and there’s one called Coleslaw too. I gather you can’t change the end date of a project once it’s been started or there would be rather a rude awakening for a lot of credit card holders!

      1. According to KickTraq, there are now 15 of these types of Kickstarters ranging from Chicken Soup to Egg Salad to Tuna Salad to Fried Rice to Lemon Pound Cake. None have the traction of the original but I’m rather surprised to see them all being approved in the first place.

        1. I was told that only last week, Kickstarter removed the need for approval to launch a project. That’s why all of these clones are popping up.

  4. I just saw the Potato Salad KS like 20 minutes ago and wondered if you’d say something about it. I’m not a KS creator so I can not reflect on how projects like PS affect creators but I will say that I don’t think this has a huge impact on the KS community. Like many of your post illustrate, KS is about the people backing the project and not the project creators themselves. Potato Salad is a joke and is taken as a joke, seems very harmless overall unlike projects like The Doom That Came to Atlantic City which presented itself as honest and yet did not deliver thus hurting the overall perception of KS. Potato Salad is light hearted fun while The Doom That Came to Atlantic City was a con, anyone who seriously uses Potato Salad as a model to raise funds doesn’t have the right mentality anyway.

    1. Right, but think about all the people who are discovering Kickstarter thanks to Potato Salad. They’re going to think this is how you can make some easy money. That’s not good for them or the Kickstarter ecosystem.

  5. Sorry, but for once, I disagree with quite a bit of this (although I will attest to knowing nothing about the project other than what you posted here). But, many times people do fund creativity or nonsense. Keep in mind that shows such as Tom Green and Jackass have been successful. They dont necessarily have lasting value but their shock value earned them a quick buck. I dont think KS is any different. If your project allows someone to say to a friend: “I just paid a guy to make potato salad” people will do it just for the ability to brag about doing something so senseless. Granted, I think if tons of creators tried this it would wear out its welcome and the money will trickle down. So you are right that it is somewhat misleading. But one ridiculous project every now and then, I believe, has the potential to be successful.

    1. The problem is that most people don’t understand that. The nonesense projects and the creativity involved to make such an awesome campaign goes way over most people’s heads. The problem is not with the nonsense. The problem is with the people who don’t get the joke.

      For example many people are talking about the reading rainbow kickstarter and it’s understandably incredible success. But very few of those people actually understand how kickstarter works and see it more as a charity platform. What they don’t understand is that LeVar Burton and the people at reading rainbow worked very hard, and will continue to work hard to make sure everything is fulfilled.

      This perception of the ‘charity of backers’ persists when joke projects come up. It makes some people who don’t know much about the platform think that you can put up anything and get money for it. That’s the problem.

      Really humor is an art, and should be rewarded. However all jokes come at someone’s expense, and this one is at the expense of Kickstarter and project creator’s. We’re still not being taken seriously as a business model, despite the hard work of people like Jamey to present how it is viable if you are willing to put in real effort.

      1. Jason: I appreciate your point, and I was going to respond, but Jonathan said it better than I could have.

        Tim: Part of it is a Kickstarter problem, yes, and perhaps that’s some of the good that will come out of this project.

        1. I guess I really dont understand how those reactions are different than the bulk of reactions to many successful projects. For instance, there are many that see a board game project reach one million and think “man that guy is set for life” or “all I need to do is make a board game and if he raised a million surely I could do at least 100,000”. These thoughts are not reality based because they do not research the cost of production/fulfillment or the percentage of unsuccessful projects.

          Also, Im not sure this is a KS issue. If 500 people deem it worth the pledge amount to receive an image of potato salad, then who is KS or anyone to say “because I dont think this has value, the project shouldnt exist” Granted I recognize this is a little more extreme of a case but really…. where could you draw that line?

          1. Jason: That’s a good point that super successful, legitimate projects can be misleading to new creators as well.

            I think the key here is that Potato Salad is a joke. The whole thing is a joke (and a bit of a parody). Does Kickstarter really want to be a parody of itself?

        2. I love a good debate. :) But respectfully, Im not sure I see a difference between this and the infamous backer toast.

          Granted, you do use the $1 pledge as a way to keep a backer attached to the project,but if they stick with that pledge they are, in essence, backing a joke/gag reward strictly for entertainment value.

          And I also hate to say it, but this project is proving that KS CAN be free money although as with all projects, success is dictated by many factors. It wouldnt surprise me if a few months from now well see a kickstarter for a documentary about the potato salad KS and what it teaches about viral marketing and our social environment.

          1. Jason: Oh, I think there’s a huge difference. The backer toast isn’t a gag or a joke–it’s our entire philosophy: Treating backers as individuals, not numbers. I wrote about this in our most recent project update on the Treasure Chest. It’s not even in the same ballpark as Potato Salad, for which the entire project is a joke.

        3. Are they different though?

          The one pledge is a certain amount to watch two guys shout out a name while taking a drink. The other pledge is a certain amount to watch a guy shout out a name while making potato salad.

          You have your theory behind why the backer toast is a valid pledge. However, I’m not sure it is any ones place to judge so quickly that this guy’s reason is any less valid than your own. Maybe he feels the same way, but sucks at communicating. Maybe he feels that this was something that people really would want. Maybe he’s doing a study on whether or not a project can be successful despite communication or whether an entertainment only / gag project can be successful. Perhaps he’s trying to build a backer base for a future project. Whatever his purpose is, this project is a “creation”, no matter how ludicrous we may believe it is, and that is what KS is for… creators to have creations funded by the crowd. It is up to that crowd to determine whether that “creation” was worthy of funding or not. As long as the project does not violate KS terms or conditions, I don’t feel it’s any of us can say that a project is not “creative” enough to be on KS. It’s too subjective to someone’s opinion.

          Which is why I do want to say that I respect that you do have an opinion here. I just disagree with it and honestly feel this opinion conflicts with some of the creative ways to use Kickstarter that you have advocated in the past.

          1. Jason: Let’s put this in perspective. This guy put a project on Kickstarter to raise money to make a potato salad. It’s a joke. The whole project is a joke. We can read deeper into it to say that he’s actually trying to create a viral social movement to bring thousands of people together on the internet, but I think we’re kidding ourselves to look at it this way. The guy thought he was being funny by putting a joke on Kickstarter.

            I’m struggling a little bit to even put into words how you could compare Potato Salad to anything I do or advocate. I create board games, and I put them on Kickstarter to raise money so I can manufacturer them. Along the way, I try to build community and bring joy to people. Nothing about what I do is a joke, even though I have fun with backers. Our $1 reward level serves many purposes (foot in the door, a way for a group buy member can still participate, a way to show that every backer matters in building something new), but if you look at it purely for the toast portion, it’s there to have a direct connection with backers and show both backers and creators that it’s possible to view and interact with backers as individuals, not numbers.

            Talk about Potato Salad all you want, but don’t compare it to what I do or advocate on Kickstarter. I’m not easily offended, and that is personally very offensive to me.

        4. Trust me, I appreciate you being offended. But what if Zach had the same exact argument. Even though I dont believe it because you have bulit repor, if I didnt know anything about you or your projects I could easily call bullcrap on the reasons mentioned above and say that guy just wanted a $1. Which is why I think its wrong that you are doing the same exact thing to Zach when you have nothing more to base it on then a project page. Again, I appreciate your opinion, but your taking offense to my comment is exactly why this post should be reconsidered. Its not my place to say a $1 pledge for a backer toast is not a legitimate reward just as its not yours to say a $1 pledge for an image of Potato Salad is not a legitimate reward, no matter how strongly you feel about it.

          Still love ya though. :P

  6. I agree wholeheartedly with you Jamey, this project is not helping the credibility of Kickstarter. It gives many backers and future project creators the wrong impression of what Kickstarter is. It is not a charity or a joke, it is a mechanism for funding a serious project that will offer its backers value. A short video of someone eating potato salad offers no value, at least for me it doesn’t. I think though, future project creators need to do their research ahead of time, or else learn the hard way.

    My dad and I put our first board game on KS a little over a year ago, and we had not done our research. We did do “some” research, but not nearly enough and we really had no clue how to market a board game to KS. We even had a local news channel cover our project, and it still failed. We learned the hard way, and now we know what it’s all about. While I don’t want anyone to have to fail before they succeed, sometimes that is part of the learning process. Nevertheless, I wish there was some kind of mechanism in place that could prevent gag projects such as potato salad from getting approved, unless they offer some kind of real value to backers.

    1. Meanwhile thousands of us continue to pledge $20, $40, $60, $100+ for boxes full of cardboard with pictures on it. Value (even “real value”) is subjective, and no one’s being tricked here — the people pledging must believe that they are getting equal value. Ultimately, the mechanism for preventing projects that don’t provide value from succeeding is that people don’t pledge. Plenty of average projects never pass that hurdle, but this one has.

    2. Mike: Very well said. Zaid, I see your point that value is in the eye of the beholder, but my point is that this project is really deceptive for everyone who discovered Kickstarter for the first time and thinks this is what Kickstarter is. I can’t even imagine the number of similar project requests Kickstarter has gotten over the last several days. Did you see the quote above from the local news anchor who said that you can use “Kickstart” to fund your mortgage? That’s the reaction first-time Kickstarters are having when they see this ridiculous project.

      1. Well, pretty much every KS should be researched thoroughly. Had this been Stonemaier Game’s first project and I could not have found any information about the company on the internet, I would not have backed it. We’re repeatedly warned, “KickStarter is not a store”, and it’s the potential backer’s responsibility to determine the risk of the project, then decide whether or not the rewards are worth it. In the case of potato salad, all you have to do is carefully read the project description.

        OTOH, These particular joke projects do risk diluting the use of the “food” category for serious backers. KS has disallowed certain types of KS, such as product designs without a prototype (or whatever it was called), so there’s no reason for KS not to disallow these sort of projects. Who know — maybe we’ll see some serious complaints with the project from backers after it’s done!

  7. I’ll be the first to admit that I was pretty furious about potato salad when I first saw it for a lot of the same reasons you listed. What’s mind-boggling is that Kickstarter approved the campaign in the first place. You’d think from a business perspective you wouldn’t want misrepresentations of your crowdfunding platform all over the internet. The example you provided from Channel 6 is a perfect example.

    I just hope that Kickstarter isn’t flooded with a huge amount of joke campaigns after this…

    1. Jacob: I had a similar reaction. I highly suspect that Kickstarter thought it was funny and didn’t think it would go anywhere. I am a little surprised they haven’t shut it down in the meantime, though.

  8. Brilliant article as always jamey. When I first saw the project I had a little chuckle then went through similar thoughts. But my feeling is it isnt quite so bad for kickstarter, I reckon we’ll see a handful of copycat projects that’ll fail and then people will forget about it and move on till the next clever/funny/stupid project. At the end of the day things like this give kickstarter more eexposure which can only be a good thing for project creators. Just my two cents!

    1. Tom: Generally I agree that bringing more people to Kickstarter is a good thing, especially more backers. But if this is the first exposure that creators get to Kickstarter, I do not think it’s a good thing at all.

  9. Sorry, I disagree. This kickstarter is doing one thing. Exposing Kickstarter! What kind of guidelines does Kickstarter lay down? Obviously they are very loose, and this Kickstarter is exposing it. No, in the long run, something like this can be good for creators. Create stricter guidelines and this sort of thing wouldn’t be happening.

    1. It’s also doing something else, the whole point of this blog post: It’s giving any creator who discovers Kickstarter through this project a really deceptive view of what Kickstarter is.

      1. KS is already deceptive. That is, every KS shows off the product, yet you barely find out any information about who the creators are, and how they will execute the project. Since “KS is not a store”, why does every KS project treat it like such? IMO, KS is project management, which means WHO the creator is, is much more important than WHAT the project offers. I think the Robotech Tactics backers have learned this awful lesson the hard way.l

        Oh, and good point about the potato salad drawing folks into KS, like the movie projects did. I don’t think many of them are Eurogamers, but… :)

    1. Please don’t put Zach Brown on your show, Richard. I would like to hear more about why you think this is great for Kickstarter, though. Specifically Kickstarter creators who discover Kickstarter through this project. Because I really don’t see how it’s good for them at all.

      1. Jamey, I’ve mentioned many times, that one of the biggest challenges that face anyone putting something on Kickstarter is Fear. Fear of failing, fear of experimentation, fear of humiliation.

        You have a very valid point that this is skewing the impression for many new people being exposed to Kickstarter. And there are already several copycat projects up trying to catch the lightning in the bottle.

        An important component for any project owner is understanding how their project is viewed to the public and the crowd. So often, when project owners grow frustrated with their hard work yet failed project, they failed to have a Story Worthy project.

        Potato Salad is a Story Worthy Project. It is inspiring thousands to stop seeing crowdfunding as a serious business that needs to be followed a certain way. Instead, crowdfunding success can be found in the smallest places, with the most mundane things around us. Even Potato Salad.

        It is causing people, right this minute, to look at their world differently. To begin to seek out stories that their crowd will find interesting.

        Yes, we will have a ton of newbies piling into Kickstarter making a bunch of mistakes. But we will also have something brilliant emerge because someone saw that there is no such thing as a project that is too silly or too dumb and they will be inspired to try, to overcome the fear that has held them back.

        I believe in things that inspire others to dream. To overcome the fear and try something. Potato Salad is a Fear-Killer.

        After all, if a guy can raise $72,000(my prediction) for Potato Salad, just image what you can do with your dream.

        1. Richard: Thanks for your detailed response. It’s always helpful to hear your perspective.

          Your point is brilliantly made, and I would be swayed to agree with you…if we were actually talking about someone’s dream, not a joke. This bro didn’t dream of making potato salad. He dreamed of making a few friends laugh and maybe poking fun at Kickstarter.

          So does the good–the inspiration–really outweigh the bad (“You have a very valid point that this is skewing the impression for many new people being exposed to Kickstarter.”) I’ve seen a lot of fun, zany projects on Kickstarter that do what you describe above without skewing the impression for new creators exposed to Kickstarter.

  10. Kickstarter changed the rules of their community when they stopped personally checking every campaign. You stop curating the community, and this is bound to happen. The tribe has spoken – and they are backing. Even with curating, several “scam” projects were funded as well as projects that never delivered a final product. Because they changed the rules, Kickstarter won’t always mean what it used to mean in terms of quality projects – Kickstarter will be different than you knew/know it. They are also trying to figure out their own issue of how to scale growth. Do you heavily curate or do you hand over an open platform and see what people do with it and want from it?

    1. Dan: In this case, I’m 100% confident that a person approved this project, not a computer algorithm. I really think they thought it was funny and didn’t think it would go anywhere or do any harm.

      1. 100% confident? Just to play devil’s advocate, how are you so sure?

        And to your comment to Richard, “He dreamed of making a few friends laugh and maybe poking fun at Kickstarter.” I know you’re having lots of feels about this campaign, have taken seemingly personal offense to it, and even posted a positive post about the potato salad campaign. BUT, to say he dreamed of making a few friends laugh and maybe poke fun at Kickstarter seems like such a stretch. Unless Zach said that somewhere I haven’t seen, that’s fairly unlike you to unsoundly suggest.

        One of your biggest themes is a fear that this is a negative representation for new people or even new potential campaign founders to be first exposed to Kickstarter. While somehow people become insanely stupid online (such as found in YouTube comments), I think you’re not giving enough credit to people. After a few clicks of browsing around, it should be evident the quality and types of campaigns typical of Kickstarter – or at least historically typical :)

        1. Dan: Okay, it’s true that I can’t actually be 100% confident. I said that because if you’re a new project creator, there’s a significantly higher chance that the algorithm will require human approval (I wrote about this in my post about their policy change). This is Zach’s first Kickstarter project.

          In truth, in all of Zach’s media appearances, he has stuck with the story that the reason he started the campaign is because he wanted to make a potato salad. Since he said it, it must be true.

          I address your final point in my post about the positives of potato salad–it’s all about first impressions, Dan.

  11. I commented on this on my facebook.. I should probably blog about this as well. I watched a small kickstarter fail when I first started backing projects. I can’t remember how much the guy wanted…it was less than 5k that I remember of for sure, and probably far less than that. All he wanted to do was digitally archive a bunch of historical photos (specifically of trains and train related stuff, I think…this was several years ago) that he had found.

    The only reward he offered was a cd of the photos.

    There are far better projects out there that are worth spending your money on, if even you want to “throw your money away”.

  12. This isn’t the first project like this though. It’s somewhat a recurring event on KS. Remember the Death Star project? Then, the X-Wing project to follow it up? Oh, then the “World’s Most Super Amazing 100% Awesome Cat Calendar” that raised over $25k. Seems like there’s one of these viral campaigns that hits KS every 3-6mo or so.

    Just to give you an idea of how big the Potato Salad is, even with the huge counterweight against this specific project, it’s currently getting 6x the traffic of any other project on KT right now consistently for 5 days solid.

    For me, the real question is, what is it about these types of projects that tug on the wallets of supporters even when they are completely silly? Is it really more than right time, right place? Is that information valuable in any way?

    1. Adam: Yeah, I linked to the Death Star/X-Wing project in the blog post. I like your question, though: What is it about this type of project that compels people to participate? I think perhaps the simplest answer is: It makes them happy. Which is great. I’m all about projects making people happy. That’s actually why I almost didn’t write this blog entry, because if this project makes people happy, who cares? But then I realized the negative impact it would have on anyone who discovered Kickstarter for the first time thanks to this project and decided that they could get some easy money too.

    2. Adam, Your question is exactly why I think these projects are so critical to Kickstarter. Just when people were thinking the big guys were coming in to take over, and you had to have some magic formula, and six months of prep work, this guy reminds us that you can find the silliest things that will inspire people to support you.

      There was never any attempt to deceive or commit fraud. If they guy wanted to raise $10 for Potato Salad, that was just fine. If they crowd wanted to reward him with more than that, then the crowd has the right as well. The crowd wants to be heard, and right now, they are saying they want interesting things that tinkle our fancy and make us laugh.

    3. The “World’s Most Super Amazing 100% Awesome Cat Calendar” was a joke? Our family over here loved, and still love, that calendar. It’s given enough continual carry-on jokes to have been completely and utterly worth it as a product. And it certainly surprised as a gift.
      Now, back on topic, the crowd does enjoy a laugh, myself included. And there may be a negative impact for new project creators. But, percentage-wise, how many is that? The majority who will look at it will be potential backers, finding the site, getting to look around and possibly giving a bit more cash/exposure to other projects on there. There is a positive effect, as though it’s a joke, a lot of people will look around the site afterwards, and may become included in something that interests them. With this sort of project, it’ll likely be a minority seen as lots are there for a joke, but still, there is some good.
      Now, surely, these project creators will look at other projects before they leap, right? If they don’t, then they were very likely to struggle and will have to learn, anyway. They can’t use the platform kickstarter, having only looked at one/two projects to see how it works? So I would disagree with the article, because it will either be seen as an irregular joke, or the lesson to actually see what else is going on on the site will teach them.
      If they don’t do the research before putting their project on such a medium to the extent that they don’t understand the vast majority of projects in this medium, the unfunded lesson will be valuable.

      1. Ravenz: That cat calender sounds awesome. They raised money to make an actual thing to send to backers–I’m all about that.

        As for how many new project creators are inspired to go after the “easy money” this project portrays, only time will tell. I’m guessing that Kickstarter will filter out most of them and have to take another look at their guidelines.

        And I agree that sometimes you have to fail on Kickstarter to succeed later. I just wish this project wasn’t the first exposure to Kickstarter for some new project creators.

        1. “They raised money to make an actual thing to send to backers”

          Ah, but Jamey, don’t you see what you’re missing here? This KS (even though I believe began and still is a joke) is still providing something for people. You don’t always have to obtain something physical to claim there was value. When you go to the movies, you don’t get to take it home with you. You experience it while you are there and then leave.

          However, you do have the memories.

          Now, I am not claiming Potato Salad KS is going to create long lasting memories, but you can’t argue it’s giving entertainment to a degree.

          As for people thinking there’s easy money in KS, well, that’s yet to be seen. Let a few of them become creators, let them fail, and all this will be done away with. No need to get all excited over something so silly.

          Now, I say this with all respect: You’ve become very successful using the same tools. Just because others are seeing a different way of using the tool doesn’t make them wrong. :0)

          1. Tim: Kickstarter’s guidelines don’t state you have to make an actual thing to send to backers–that’s one of several options. The definition from Kickstarter is, “Projects must create something to share with others.” I talk about this in #2 on my list in this post.

            By your logic, though, any project should go on Kickstarter because it might “give” people joy or giggles or anything. I mentioned the fallacy of the news anchor who said that Kickstarter can be used to fund your house. Do we really want a Kickstarter platform where you can literally put anything on there because it might evoke some level of emotion from people?

            I’ll quote from a comment further down on the page that explains why I’m getting “all excited over something silly”.

            “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.”

            “Just because others are seeing a different way of using the tool doesn’t make them wrong.”

            I love to see people innovate on Kickstarter, as I think it challenges Kickstarter creators like me to think outside the box and create better experiences for backers. I’ve already written a blog post about why I think Potato Salad is purely a joke and is bad for new project creators, so I won’t repeat it again here.

  13. What drives me crazy is that Kickstarter will approve joke projects like this, but turn down good, real projects. They rejected my handmade pen project submissions 3 times even though similar projects are constantly approved, and then they go approve projects that clearly don’t follow the guidelines or are obvious jokes. It’s very frustrating.

      1. They said because I use commercial kits (which I do for the metal components, though the woodwork and finishing is all done by me.) That would be fine, if they were consistent. I’ve seen dozens of approved projects before and after that used the same type of kits. I appealed and cited those projects, for which I received just basically a “too bad. You’re still not approved.” That’s the frustrating part.

  14. Jamey, you bring up several issues that may need to be separated out.

    Why would a project that asks for $10 to create a dish of food be considered a joke?

    Should food dishes be excluded as a viable project?

    Should there be a minimum amount you must ask for a project to be considered serious?

    If this project had successfully funded $15 and stopped, would it still be considered unacceptable based on principal and not on actual damage inflicted? (Damage being your definition of harm to the greater Kickstarter cause/image/brand)

    This project is not in the same vein as the Deathstar and X-Wing Squadron. Those were obvious jokes with impossible goals and no expectation that the money pledged would ever be distributed.

    Potato Salad on the other hand never set out to be anything but “Potato Salad”. It wasn’t trying to make a statement, or gain some kind of celebrity status. It was just a simple project.

    And yet, every backer is fully aware that their money is going to be given to Zack. That tens of thousands of dollars are being given to a man who didn’t even ask for it. If this is a joke, then everyone is in on it.

    Yes, I agree that it was also probably a test to see if something as silly as this would be approved. And it obviously was approved.

    Doesn’t this make you wonder what else we could get approved? Doesn’t it make people want to experiment and try other goofiness?

    How about a haircut? Is that inappropriate for Kickstarter? I want to get a $20 haircut and will allow the highest backer to decide how it is cut. Five pledge levels from $20 to $100 limited to one backer each. Whoever backs the highest decides.

    Would that be inappropriate? It is silly and the backers receive nothing other than seeing me cut my hair?

    The challenge with this seems to be the magnitude and not the act. If this had stayed quiet then no one would have really cared. But now, suddenly, people get to back a project and be part of something.

    I do not disagree with you that you and I will be facing a slew of eager beavers all thinking they are going to strike it rich. But we really don’t have to worry about the crowd, do we? It seems that they are pretty savvy.

    I do image that Zack is dealing with a bit more than he thought he was going to get. Even Good Morning America is covering the story.

    1. Richard: Definitely, I’m not worried about the crowd here. I like that the crowd is having fun with this project, and in general I think the crowd is quite savvy. This isn’t about the crowd–it’s about creators and the skewed perception that Kickstarter is easy money. And you’re exactly right–this wouldn’t be a problem (in my opinion) if Potato Salad raised $15. We wouldn’t be talking about it here.

      I hope you’re right–perhaps this will issue a new era of creativity on Kickstarter. In the meantime, I look forward to seeing how Zach sends out 463 bites of potato salad to backers around the world (or gets a class-action lawsuit for not fulfilling pledge rewards).

        1. LOL – yes, this part has me very curious as well. I don’t expect him to actually deliver on the bite, or if he does, I don’t expect the bite to be any good in the mail. So my curiosity is if backers care about that.

      1. I think that part of what bothers me is that people aren’t pledging $1 to “get the joke”, they are pledging $10K to make this even more funny. Doesn’t that send the message to new people looking at Kickstarter that you can mess with someone’s legitimate Kickstarter because you can always cancel your pledge in the 11th hour?

        1. Lori: That’s an excellent point. I hadn’t thought about that. I wonder if Kickstarter will change their policy on canceling pledges (though I’m not quite sure how they could do it and still keep the core structure of their platform).

          1. At the same time people have been guilty of this BEFORE the Potato Salad KS ever existed. I really don’t think you’re going to see a huge increase in pledges all across Kickstarter. This will attract a certain crowd, that crowd will get bored, and move on. I don’t see them scouring Kickstarter so they can make random $10K pledges. Really, this is just exaggerating and most likely won’t be the case. For the record, I am eating a chicken salad sandwich at the moment. Nobody has paid me to eat it. :0)

  15. I think the odd joke project on KS is alright, I think it just highlights the better ones. It’s the same as TV programs most people don’t rate all TV based on one episode of Jackass. I remember reading some comments about the X-wing and Deathstar ones that basically said if all these people pledging just $1 or more into a joke project just put that into a charity it could help solve a lot of the worlds problems and that wouldn’t be a joke.

  16. I think in the long run this will be a good thing.
    It’s all part of the process of Kickstarter maturing. The simply fact they accepted the project shows that Kickstarter simply isn’t rigorous enough and still has significant flaws.
    I think this was set up as a joke at Kickstarter’s expense to highlight the flaws in Kickstarter and is being seen as that by most of the ‘backers’.
    What happens next is interesting. My suggestion would be: Use the publicity to get a deal for a documentary or to write a book and complete the project. Go on a quest to deliver Potato Salad to the backers… And then start thinking about my next project.

    1. Daryl: I find it ironic that Kickstarter’s new poster boy is someone who make a joke project. I’m not sure if Kickstarter will completely eliminate joke projects after this, though. Mark on Twitter suggested they make a joke project category, but the money goes to charity. I liked that. Because really, is this guy going to ship potato salad to 500+ backers? There’s no way.

    1. Seth: Interesting article. The author focuses on the fun of the project, which is fine. His main point seems to be that other creators is to do a better job at conveying why their project is worth backing. I support that idea. I really doubt that’s what most new project creators are getting out of this project, though. They see it and think, “Kickstarter is easy money.”

  17. I understand Richards point about this showing people to get over your fears and start your Kickstarter. But, I do think the potential for more harm than good is rather large here. Like you said Jamey I think too many newbies will think “If potato salad can raise this much I should have no problem with my goals.” This is true if the project offers something worth while and the creator puts in some work but they will believe that little work is required and the idea is all you need.

    1. @Board-Dom: That’s an excellent myth that I didn’t mention in the post–that all you need is an idea, no legwork or preparation at all. I’m going to add that to the list.

  18. This is the predictable result of Kickstarter loosening their approval requirements. You’re bound to get some jokers. However, I think that the dangers you present are overstated. I think that someone who has never seen KS before and starts looking around at other projects will be positively impressed by the quality of projects that are on KS, and won’t be too overly swayed by what is clearly a parody project. It’s also quite likely that KS will cancel this project before it funds, or that its creator will.

    1. Isaac: I certainly hope that new project creators will look around and do their research before launching a project. I think, though, that the impact of the first Kickstarter project you discover on your future behavior shouldn’t be underestimated. The first project I backed still has an impact on me today.

  19. Got here from a shared link on Twitter and I must say: You completely expressed my thoughts!

    When I saw that crap first on the internet and then also on Today on NBC this morning I was just “OH MY GOD PLEASE STOP!” Because I am an Aspiring Game Designer, I try to get myself out there, make games for a living, but that kind of stuff just diffuses the effect of Crowdfunding.

    The same like with ‘The Rock Simulator’. And it really ticks me off that some people have GENUINE ideas or want to save lives with a new invention or try to pursue their dreams and come just like 5 dollars short or simply not anywhere near their goal and then they trash their dreams.

    And then when you as hard-working guy, an aspiring person in some specialty or anything alike and see a Potato Salad rising 40k+ Dollars, then you are just like “Why should I even bother?” Lastly: It makes me lose my faith in humanity in a sick, twisted way.

    I have nothing against jokes, but I draw the line when it is about my dreams I pursue and basically parodies them (even if just indirectly)

  20. Right. As I noted in our chat over twitter, I gave Zack here a dollar to watch the show. And actually, initially, he was engaged and communicating. But like all 15 minutes of fame it is starting to get out of control and someone (him, media, kickstarter, kickstarter creators) is going to get a stick in the eye.

    Personally, I think this stuff is incredible important to watch to understand the human condition and how we are developing around massive, transparent communication and financial boundaries.

    My wife was on the couch and mentioned the Potato Salad to me. I was like “yeah, I’m a backer” she was disgusted :) I want to watch to see what happens and also to understand why it went from what it should have been, a guy doing something funny and getting $15 to make lunch, into the next cat video.

    Cheers and great discussion!
    ~Ed

    1. Ed: Thanks for your comment. I appreciate your positive spin that it’s mostly a good thing that Kickstarter is such a user-friendly platform for creators. And you’re right, perhaps we do have something to learn about human behavior from this project (for better or for worse!).

  21. Ooo, Ooo, one other thing. Making a game on Kickstarter is a crazy amount of work and preparation – – your stuff is incredibly valuable in supporting that and boy I’m still amazed each day. Making a Potato Salad ISN’T a lot of work. I personally think it is pretty awesome that kickstarter allows someone to get this stuff up and rolling so quickly and simply. The fact the the tool is easy to use and effective isn’t a fault.

  22. Hey Jamey, awesome points here. I have to admit, this business with potato salad has asked me to decide what I really believe is ok on Kickstarter. So, #1 – I’m not a backer, because I don’t trust the creator to deliver, but #2 – I completely support this project being on KS and I don’t think it hurts KS. I’m with Richard on this – I think it brings more exposure to KS. This is by and large the same argument as “the big guns (movies, board games, etc) shouldn’t be allowed to compete with the true indie spirit campaigns” – the oddball project will bring press, may or may not change platform policies (if they do, it’ll be for the better to tighten up 10K pledging), and it may or may not mislead some folks on how easy it is to make cash.

    As an app developer as well, I could say the same is true for every “flappy birds”. It’s a whole new world here where anyone can make an app, a movie, a game and distribute themselves. I need that world to exist, because I want to work for myself and live my dream. We might need some regulations in place, but we shouldn’t squash or fear the silly and what they can do for this community.

    Max Temkin also recently spoke up in support of Potato Salad on twitter, saying that there are bigger things to get frustrated about. I agree. I think I’ll have a laugh at it, and focus on making my stuff the best it can be (and also make sure I use comedy!) I thought back to Max’s experimentation on KS – he funded a $1 project to sing a birthday song to someone. And CAH has proved to be something that you can’t quite bottle as to why it spoke to everyone the way it does. Who knows where the silly internet is going next! CAH has produced many clones, and I sigh when I see them, but I’m glad they are here as well. I hope KS just gets bigger and bigger and not the other way around.

    1. Peter: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Just to be clear, I love any project that brings new people to Kickstarter. It’s the exposure to new creators who get a completely skewed perspective about what Kickstarter is that worries me.

  23. I’ll add to one point that’s not been covered much here – what if 3,000 backers decide that they really don’t want their money to go towards the gag and cancel? Amazon payments expects a wholesale authorization to be cancelled; from a systems perspective it’s easy to cancel all records for a given project creator and period. But to have to yank 3,000+ authorizations over a short period of time? Yes, it’s automated but it may cause a host of issues. It’s the kind of thing that a machine learning algorithm within a payments processing and security system might view as a hacking attempt or fraud, and shut it all down.

    Potato Salad may crash Kickstarter. Okay, I just cracked up typing that. It’s probably a 2% chance, but I think even if nothing happens, there will be some revisions. For example, a minimum pledge level (say $10) or a minimum fundraising goal before authorization kicks in (as has been suggested above, $10k maybe)

    He does have some actual fulfillable goals now – shirt, hat and recipe book. How on earth do you deliver a “bite” of potato salad via mail?

    1. Jeremy: That’s an interesting question. I doubt most people are going to cancel, though, especially if they’re just giving a few bucks. They get to tell the story about the potato salad project they backed.

      But I sincerely do look forward to seeing how he fulfills those reward commitments. If he doesn’t find a way to get the bites to people, it’s a direct opposition to Kickstarter’s guidelines, and there’s now legal precedent for that.

  24. I think he’ll be a bit surprised when he see’s the bill to ship out all those “bites of potato salad”. At least the post office will be making money. I’m guessing they’ll be non-refridgerated.

  25. To jump back in for a second, I don’t know that fulfillment is that crazy here. If he makes a couple hundred grand, and has any savvy (which he may not), he might just be able to deliver satisfying results. He could ship a tiny vacuum sealed “bite”, with a card of authenticity and a warning of not to eat. The “I backed a potato salad” t-shirt bit (watch the video) is -expertly- done. He either knows his stuff or is letting all the sharks jump in with him. The real spectacular turn of events would be if he does fund a ton of money and delivers happiness!

  26. Zack did nothing wrong. He created a project and chose a goal he knew he’d reach to make it succeed. Now that things are getting out of hand, he’s coming up with stretch goals and ways to spend the additional money to give something back to the backers.

    Sure, he should have known foreign backers wanted their bite delivered ahead of time, and perhaps he should’ve learned about food safety and potential recipes before launching the project, but he’s doing the legwork now and with all the help he’s getting from backers and other interested people, I believe he will succeed.

    What I’m not okay with are all the copycat projects.
    First of all, they lack the originality of the original potato salad project.
    Most of the copycats backed no one else. Zack backed 4 projects and is an active part of the community and not just leeching as some people seem to believe.
    Last but not least, the copycats are clogging up the food projects page. Anyone launching a serious project right now is going to be buried in a pile of crap.

    1. stijnhommes: Are you sure Zach did nothing wrong? I think the $3 reward suggests otherwise. If he didn’t intend to actually send bites of potato salad to Kickstarter backers, why would he create a reward that offers it? (I’m assuming that wasn’t his actual intention, given the lack of foresight into that reward level.)

      I heartily agree with you about the copycats.

      1. Jamey, I think it is obvious that Zach was not thinking globally or even nationally when he created the project (see: $10 goal). He just wanted to amuse his local friends, and if they gave him $3, he would give them a bite of potato salad.

        I can imagine a bunch of friend sitting around, possibly drinking, when the subject of potato salad randomly comes up:

        “Man, I’ve never made potato salad before. I should totally do that sometime.”

        “Yeah, and you should make it a Kickstarter project.”

        The friends all think this is hilarious (because – come on – it is), and so the project is born.

        But once the project leaves the station, it can’t get off the tracks. The thing goes viral and suddenly the bites of potato salad for his friends no longer make any sense in the context of some guy in Germany backing the project.

        Is it really Zach’s fault, though, for not thinking globally from the beginning? I mean, it made perfect sense on a local scale. I think that responsibility of oversight lies with Kickstarter, since they’re the ones who should be policing their own system. When the project came to their attention, they should have stepped in and at least made a change to the reward level, since the whole bite thing is completely unfeasible.

        And the bite is really my only problem with the project. Other than the bite, he’s offering legitimate rewards and is handling the whole thing pretty well for someone who didn’t prepare for the success at all. Who are we to limit his expression?

        1. Isaac: Ha ha, I like that dialogue. That’s how I picture it happening too!

          Is it Zach’s fault for not thinking globally? Well, sure. He could have put on the reward text, “For Columbus backers only.”

          I think you make a great point with your last paragraph. Regardless of Zach’s original intentions (mostly likely a joke), he’s done some interesting things with the project since then. Well, maybe “interesting” is a strong word–he added hats and a t-shirt. But it’s interesting to see the project start as nothing and grow to fit Kicksarter’s guidelines during the campaign. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that happen.

  27. I disagree and don’t like the amount of blame you are placing on the campaign. No one has forced anyone to contribute to this campaign.

    “Potato Salad is doing the exact opposite”?

    No, the contributors to the campaign are allegedly doing these things.

    Sure, people that found Kickstarter this /may/ see Kickstarter in a different light had they first seen a different project.

    But so what? You’re talking about people who don’t already know what Kickstarter is. Whose is to blame if the way these people found it is through a frivolous project rather than a more substantial one? I suggest that your disappointment would be more logically directed toward those people, and then maybe you’ll see that overall, you’re being a little overreactive.

    Perhaps it’s frustrating, as someone who works so hard to get earnest backers, for you to see someone do it with something so silly? I can empathize with that. But that’s not Zach’s fault. It’s the backers fault. Blame humanity, blame poor journalistic practices on TV, blame the way memes mindlessly propagate through the internet. Some people will get an inaccurate sense of what Kickstarter is. Any backer who is thoughtful and who bothers to look into it will do the research. The kind of person who would have become a backer but somehow has never heard of Kickstarter until now will check out other campaigns.

  28. William: Thanks for your thoughts. You’re right that this campaign wouldn’t be an issue (for me) if no one had backed it. And I’m not judging people for backing it–it’s there, it’s a talking point, and why not? It’s $1.

    The problem is that it succeeded, and as a result, it’s going to be the first exposure a lot of people have to Kickstarter. For new backers, I think it’s mostly good. For new creators, not at all. I find it hard to blame those new creators for having this be the first project they’ve discovered, though–it’s not their fault. The impetus shifts to them when they make a project that perpetuates the myths I’ve mentioned above, and Potato Salad is doing its best to perpetuate those myths (even if it wasn’t Zach’s intention to do so).

    “Perhaps it’s frustrating, as someone who works so hard to get earnest backers, for you to see someone do it with something so silly?” Not for me–that doesn’t enter the equation at all. All of my dislike for the project is solely focused on the fact that new project creators are discovering Kickstarter through this project and viewing the platform as easy money, and I think it will have a ripple effect on the platform and on backers.

    But 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.

    1. I saw this as part of an overall phenomenon where people have gotten money for silly things on the internet. Some of these things are funny on their own but part of the humor is how much people want to support something ridiculous. And that in turn highlights something more meaningful – that people want to be a part of something. I considered backing Potato Salad (I haven’t yet, but I may) only because I thought it would be fun to attend the party and I am sure I’m not alone. I would be disappointed if the copy cats are successful. I backed the Burrito project, which I thought was well thought out, and I had backed very early, one of the first. As the Potato Salad thing gets larger and larger, it makes me want to back less and less. Also he hasn’t made any updates. I hope he does something interesting with the money rather than just pocket it.

      I’ve probably said it before, but I am constantly impressed by your blog and your commitment and ability to engage readers even when they disagree. It’s really refreshing.

  29. I have to be honest, I don’t see a big problem here for anyone but Zach, and perhaps Kickstarter’s numbers. As Richard points out, the crowd is savvy. A majority of the backers are likely funding potato salad with a wink and a nudge, for the fun and whimsy (mind you, I am NOT), but even if someone completely new to Kickstarter is actually expecting to get their bite of potato salad delivered to them, the idea of “Caveat Emptor” isn’t new. It is expressed in Latin because this isn’t humanity’s first time around the block.

    New backers who throw some money in for the joke aren’t going to be eager to throw more money in on more jokes, but maybe they will poke around and find something that they want to get in on legitimately. I can see that a proliferation of these projects could muddy the water and ‘hide’ legitimate creator’s projects from view. I guess a bunch of failed projects that Kickstarter approved could skew their project success rates. In my opinion, Kickstarter should have already capped the food projects like this. That decision is theirs to make.

    Potential creators who see this and form some skewed idea of what they can do with Kickstarter will have those notions destroyed pretty quickly by the backers. Look at the list of food projects that have gone live in the last day (or couple) – https://www.kicktraq.com/categories/food/?sort=new

    My quick count shows over 100 new projects with a goal under $100 and a product that is a very small amount of food. The VAST majority of those are at $0 (or £ or €). The ones who have had pledges (outside of Zach) have low double digits at most, and are learning that it isn’t a free money machine. If creators aren’t offering reasonable rewards, they won’t get pledges (heck even projects that offer reasonable rewards can fail). These projects won;t get free press, because potato salad zach already did it, and is old news. Everyone else is a hanger on. The market is smart enough to regulate itself.

    Perhaps I am missing how this is going to affect creators who have traditional (or realistic) expectations, or even backers. Please let me know.

    1. Sean: Thanks for your comment and for that link to food projects on Kicktraq. If you search for “potato salad” on Kickstarter right now, you’ll see a ton of copycats.

      I totally agree that backers are savvy–I’m not worried about the backers. They’ll be fine, and I welcome the new ones joining Kickstarter for the first time.

      I think my comment right above your comment helps to better explain why I’ve made such a big deal out of this. (I think we were typing our comments at the same time.)

  30. On a side note; I’ve always wondered, how food products are even legal, as a Kickstarter. Isn’t there stiff regulations regarding the production and distribution of food products in North America? I feel like this person will have the FDA and/or USDA breathing down their necks, thanks to the media storm. If either body shuts him down, what happens to the backers who are in for money? I HOPE that nobody was actually expecting potato salad in the mail(because….damn; It’s POTATO SALAD).

    Seriously though. How is it legal to just make a food product, and sell/ship it via Kickstarter. I don’t recall seeing any products(I’m looking at you beef jerky’s!) being FDA/USDA approved; For domestic, or international distribution.

  31. I’m also of the opinion that this project is not necessarily bad for Kickstarter. A lot of similar criticisms and fears were leveled at the Zach Braff and Veronica Mars movie Kickstarters when those campaigns launched. Kickstarter answered with its analysis of the blockbuster effect.

    https://www.kickstarter.com/blog/blockbuster-effects

    I’m still of the opinion that more visibility will continue to grow the community in a positive way. Sure, there have been some copycat campaigns, but none have achieved even a fraction of this campaign’s success. The shameless copycats will fade back into the woodwork when they realize that this project has captured lightning-in-a-bottle. The creator has also done some legwork promoting the campaign on sites like reddit; and something that goes front-page viral on reddit has the potential to be a mainstream break-out.

    I think your argument that this campaign gives the wrong initial impression of Kickstarter to many new creators is very valid, though. It’s clear from the comments from the campaign that many of them are learning the wrong lessons from the campaign, and it can potentially hurt their potential future projects.

    1. Nicholas: I’m really glad you linked to that blog entry. I remember reading it, but I couldn’t find it. The main conclusion of it is that 22% of first-time backers who supported Double Fine’s mega project went on to back other projects too. That’s pretty cool. I’m all about any project that brings in new backers, and I should give Potato Salad credit for that. I’d like to see the data from that project in 6 months too. Will it have the same impact, or will many of those backers think Kickstarter is a joke?

      1. Yeah, it’s too early to say, but the Potato Salad Kickstarter has seen a lot of exposure from major media outlets that rarely discuss crowd-funding, if at all, such as USA Today and Good Morning America. I think it’s created more mainstream awareness of Kickstarter, which I think can be considered a net positive.

        This isn’t scientific by any means, but I did glance through the backers list and there are a decent amount of contributors who are new users (first project backed) or are whom I’d consider casual users (fewer than 10 projects backed). This is the perfect type of project to capture those new faces; hopefully, a few of them will stick around to continue to back other projects.

  32. I’m still a firm believer that any publicity is good publicity. Might we see an influx of people thinking they can make a quick buck? Sure, but anyone in the future who is serious about starting a project will now know kickstarter exists even if the potato salad is what originally got them to kickstarter.

    I personally had no idea about your blog until I reached out to you asking for help, but that in itself points out that someone who is determined to make their project successful will do their due diligence or hopefully learn from their failure.

    Someone thinking that kickstarter is a place to make a quick buck will be quick to fail and learn that the potato salad was an anomaly.

    If the potato salad kickstarter brings in just 1 of it’s clicks to a viewer who is interested in becoming part of our community I see it as a win for us all.

  33. I am a kickstarter creator with two current and REAL campaigns (not trying to promote myself with this post..so will not give the links but so you can verify my claims they are related to Pink Gold Salt and Inka Nuts). Both my modest campaigns have surpassed their funding goals and were doing respectably well but in the last 24 hours have died….no new backers. I suspect it has something to do with the massive “cultural disruption” caused by the potato salad.

  34. the real problem is 200+ copycat projects, maybe 30% of them publically jealous of a funny potato salad project.. ridiculous herd behavior.. predictable. true creators report their pledges dropped fast the week this started.. because kickstarter has added 2000 projects in the last week.. kickstarter is expanding.. and a big % of the new projects are potato salad derivatives.. i do like the grilled cheese one.. all the rest are weak.. let them on.. but.. kickstarter changed this week.. period.. dilution does not make the alcohol higher proof. period. indiegogo is actually doing better now.. surprise.. i wonder if kickstarter will learn and allow us to SUBTRACT stupid projects from our search results.. the keyword is we need more ROBUST search and discovery tools.. to sort the seed from the chaf… yes? blessings

  35. Why are you worried that creators will have false expectations about Kickstarter? It is the creator’s duty to understand the platform.

    If new creators are incapable of explaining the idea of the project and the necessity for money, networking with small media, giving appropriate rewards for pledges, my opinion is that they have not done enough research on how the platform works, or that they do not take their own project seriously. If you really need the money, you will be reading every last line on the Kickstarter website.

    Potato salad has two positive outcomes:
    1- Proving to the world that a little bit of humour in good faith is attractive to pledgers.
    2- I am not a potato salad backer but i do think the joke is funny. Once. Look at the coleslaw guy and how miserable his campaign is. He made all those mistakes you are talking about and it’s failing. Boohoo.

    It doesn’t matter what the creator’s expectations are about Kickstarter. It matters what the pledger’s expectations are about the campaign, and that my friend, is solely the job of the creator. Now that everyone has had a good laugh they can go back to being serious. Someone said that these joke campaigns are stealing potential backers from real creators/artists. But really, you think that Coleslaw stands a chance against Reading Rainbow?

    (Sorry if i’m repeating from other comments, i couldn’t go through all of them.)

    1. Shelly: Thanks for your comment. The fundamental question you’re asking is why I’m worrying about other project creators. The answer is the reason why I write my KS Lessons blog–I genuinely want to help other project creators. I’ve been very fortunate on Kickstarter, and I’ve learned a lot, and I want to share the knowledge with other creators so they can succeed too. I didn’t mean for that worry to translate into so much ire towards Potato Salad–I think some of that ire was misdirected, hence the reason I wrote the follow up post, “The Positives of Potato Salad.” https://stonemaiergames.com/the-positives-of-potato-salad/

    1. Ashton: Personally, I would put your project in a different category. You’re raising funds to create something to share with others as described in the project rewards. I’m guessing that your project is trying to make people smile, like potato salad, but unlike potato salad’s “bite of potato salad reward,” you’ve put a little more thought into your reward levels.

      Would you say it falls under the same category?

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