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Hungry For Numbers: Kickstarter Feeds Us Potato Salad

on Tuesday, Aug. 5th

Remember, if you can, a more innocent time on the Internet—also known as last month—when we we all collectively losing our minds over a $10 Kickstarter project that became a five figure phenomenon.

I’m talking about Zack “Danger” Brown’s Potato Salad project.

Kickstarter’s Fred Benenson and David Gallagher bring us a look at the numbers behind the Potato Salad project, which closed up three days ago with a jumbo-sized total of $55,492.

It’s a fascinating look, revealing that this joke gone wild managed to become the fourth most viewed project in the site’s history beating out the Oculus Rift (#10) and Reading Rainbow (#8) and Double Fine Adventure (#5) amongst others.

Of course, it didn’t come close to the dollar amounts on those projects. Much of the traffic was probably guys like me: coming back every few hours to stare at disbelief in the rising total.

Missing from the tale of the tape, however, is the mystery of the two great drops. The story of this missing cash is hidden between the lines of Kicktraq’s chart which traces the arc of the full campaign.

Those who follow crowdfunding closely know that these weird anomalies pop up from time to time. What we’re never quite sure of is what exactly is going on. Is it a wave of backers changing their minds, or the crowdfunding sheriffs purging fraudulent pledges? With the amount of attention on Brown’s project this would be an excellent opportunity for the data team to lift the veil on this troubling puzzle.

As Kickstarter’s numbers reveal, the Potato Salad project was strongly rooted in the existing Kickstarter community—the vast majority of backers are serial Kickstarter fans. This is great news for Kickstarter and crowdfunding in general, and a wing of these fans—myself included—tend to have an insatiable hunger for data.

There’s the aforementioned Kicktraq, which has been known to cause some project creators to lose sleep with its projections. Then there’s the spreadsheet like CrowdToolz, which makes a deep dive across Kickstarter and IndieGoGo projects fairly simple.

Transparency is the cornerstone of trust in the digital age, and while I know that there are some secrets that Kickstarter would be wise to keep close to the chest—to avoid scammers who would game the system—some more insight into the anomalies of the Potato Salad project could help arm crowdfunding boosters with facts to use in the seemingly endless debates about the validity of crowdfunding.

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