July 08, 2014, 6:05 AM —
Let's talk about this week's goofy story, the potato salad Kickstarter project.
A few weeks ago Kickstarter announced "Launch Now," a system that allows project creators the opportunity to launch a Kickstarter project without any input from Kickstarter staff. I'm guessing Launch Now and Kickstarter's new "simplified rules" inspired Zack Danger Brown to test the limits of the new system and launch his Kickstarter campaign to make potato salad. His goal was to raise $10. Last time I looked he was somewhere past $22,000.
This is the lunacy of Kickstarter and, sorry to be the guy with no sense of humor, I don't think it's doing the service any favors. Already I've seen copy-cat projects for more potato salad, chicken soup, a sandwich and cole slaw (though at least one of the cole slaw projects acknowledge Brown's potato salad project) and the list goes on. The only good news is that most of these projects are getting few, if any, pledges.
But back to Zack Danger Brown's potato salad. I happened to be looking at the page when it jumped from $11,000+ to $21,000+ so someone seems to have pledged $10,000 to the project. I'm guessing (and hoping) that this pledge won't be around for long.
In fact I'm wondering how long Brown will keep this project going, because the pledges don't make a lot of sense. $3 gets you, among other things, "a bite of the potato salad." It's not entirely clear to me what happens if a project succeeds and backers don't get their rewards, but I think it's safe to say Brown will be losing money on every $3 pledge by the time he ships a perishable bite of potato salad to backers (although I suppose he doesn't promise the salad will still be edible by the time it arrives so maybe he'll just jam a spoonful into a ziplock bag and put it in an envelope).
Higher pledge levels include "choose a potato-salad appropriate ingredient to add to the potato salad" and there's over 300 of those sold, making this the most complex potato salad ever.
And it goes on from there. At even higher levels are less goofy rewards like hats, t-shirts and recipe books. I'm hoping Brown took the time to calculate how much it would cost to manufacture and ship these items, and that he's taking into account Kickstarter and Amazon's cut of the pledge; otherwise this Kickstarter campaign is going to be so successful that it puts him in the poor house.
With so much success Brown has been adding stretch goals like renting out a party hall and inviting "the whole internet" to come get some potato salad, and hiring someone to film the event. Basically he sounds like he's having fun and throwing things at the wall to see what sticks but I'm still worried about his finances, though again it's unclear to me how binding any of this is. If he opts to skip the party hall do backers have any recourse. Do they even really care?
It's worth noting that VentureBeat reached out to Kickstarter about the project and got pretty much nothing in return (Kickstarter's response: "Thanks for reaching out. There’s no single recipe for inspiration."), but it does show that the people running Kickstarter are aware of the project.
It's all pretty silly (and my friends tell me I'm just being a stick in the mud about the whole situation), but it'll be interesting to see how this all plays out. I'm hoping the various 'copycat' projects die off soon (though most have goals as low as $8 or $10) and I wonder if Kickstarter will step in at any point to try to discourage $10 projects to make an omelette. The joke is already starting to turn rancid.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.