Blind Spot: Finding Your Own Way
So you’ve put up your project up on Kickstarter and get some of that free internet money. Now you can relax and let the easy money flow your way. Who cares if most projects flat line – yours will buck the trend, and continue its effortless upward trajectory. The website’s active community will be all over your pitch, and should have it funded in no time, right?
It is possible that your idea is viral enough or you are fortunate enough to be plastered all over the front page by a staff pick or project of the day; if that happens your project might succeed on its own. If this unlikely occurrence does not happen to you though, by all means read on.
That might be true when it’s new; for the first day or two you will rank pretty highly on the ‘Recently Launched‘ section of their website, and it will certainly give you a lot of bonus traffic you won’t have to work for, but as each new project is posted, you will slide further down that list. At 51 pages of listings, in a few days or a week it won’t even be possible to find your project. Most people won’t scroll more than a few pages down though. I suspect that this phenomena has much to do with the flatlining of most projects after a week or so.
So what happens at the end? Why the sudden (and common) funding spike?
There’s another searchable category: ‘Ending Soon.’ Projects enter this category from the bottom up. A project falls under the this heading once it has less than a week until its funding window closes. In addition to the Remind Me feature that I discussed previously, I think that this accounts for a lot of the upsurge in interest at the end of projects. Oh, sure, the urgency factor that is so often discussed is definitely there, but free advertising giving the fence sitters another look before the end definitely has a value.
I have read the opinion more than once that Kickstarter has poor search tools (they do) to force people to wade through all the other projects in order to find what they are looking for. This makes a lot of sense to me, and I am inclined to agree. For instance, one can look at the comic books category or the ending soon category, but you cannot filter for both criteria to dramatically reduce the scope of what you are looking for. This seems pretty intuitive to me and, in light of other accusations, such as the hiding of failed projects from external search engines, intentional.
Am I alone in this, or does anyone else have a gripe or three against Kickstarter’s clumsy interface and search tools?
I was thinking about this exact same thing recently. It seems like a pretty obvious move to make everything about the site seem more professional. The projects that get picked for the top spots look nice and are often successful. I really doubt that the “Ending Soon” section generates much revenue – you can’t access “Ending Soon” (or “Recently Launched”) from the main page – you have to go through one of the other sections.
Now here’s an interesting question – do you think projects can pay for a “Staff Pick”? One project that made me wonder this is “Papier,” which has such a weird intro video. They seem to be relatively professional, to have an interesting premise for a game, but other than the weird lighthouse photo, not much of an actual game: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/spycraftstudios/papier-adventure?ref=category
Sure, the staff could have picked this because it looks interesting, but I think there are dozens of other projects that seem more promising if less polished with their pitch video.
It is my opinion, that the people get the “Staff Pick effect” causality backwards. The staff chooses projects for the category that are likely to, as you say, look good on the front page. This makes the site look good to new arrivals. Thus, successful projects are likely to be picked, rather than picked projects are likely to be made successful. That said, I think they play the recommendations straight – I think integrity, or at least the appearance of it is critical to their business model.
What is Kickstarter if not trust in people to do what they say?
Kickstarter seems a little short-sighted with their attitude towards the navigation of their site. As you said in the above comment, they want to put projects in the spotlight that make them look good – specifically successful ones. But doing so contributes to the attitude in the beginning of your post: “all I have to do is put my project up here, and people will flock to it and give me all the moneys.”
The problem is that Kickstarter gives their users no control over the filtering or sorting of projects. There are a few categories to choose from, and maybe two categories within that to narrow it down slightly. From their, it’s all up to Kickstarter in how they want to present that list. Why can’t I sort by percentage funded? Why can’t I filter out projects that already reached their goal? Why can’t I even hit a button to see a random project? It’s because doing so could expose all of those failed projects and make Kickstarter “look bad”. They should just try to put a positive spin on those projects by having something like an “Underappreciated” or “Needs More Love” projects section.
On September 24th, I have a post going up that touches on some of those points.
I’ve written a little ahead as I’ll be in Florida for training all week, but these thoughts are near and dear to my mind. More money and more success will attract more fraud. There is infinite demand for free money after all.
Great commentary though. I hope they read this blog and make the appropriate and needed changes. The question is, do you think these shortcomings are intentional or accidental?
Oh, I think they are absolutely intentional. The features I listed would hardly take any time at all to implement for a competent web developer – and Kickstarter sure as hell wouldn’t still be running without one. They seem a little bit like Apple in their attitude toward user experience: so long as they can control it, they know you’ll have a good (if limited) experience.
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