July 12, 2014
The Internet’s Stupid Obsession With Potato Salad
Were he dead, Sir Tim Berners-Lee would likely be turning in his grave that the worldwide web, which he essentially created 25 years ago, had become so obsessed with of all things potato salad. Berners-Lee is still very much alive, but so far he has said little about this strange obsession of the Summer of 2014.
It started recently when Zack Brown of Columbus, Ohio launched a Kickstarter project that sought to raise $10 for his potato salad recipe. Instead, he has earned more than $44,000 from 5,405 backers with 22 days to go at the time I wrote this piece.
Brown will now reportedly use the money to host a massive potato salad party in Columbus.
“I am a somewhat risk-averse person,” Brown told CNN. “I like potato salad but had never made it before and wasn’t sure it would be any good. Kickstarter helps people to realize their dreams, so it seemed like a perfect fit.”
Slate suggested, “The Kickstarter Potato Salad Guy Should Probably Give the Money to Charity.”
Actually, Ian Crouch of The New Yorker is wrong there, but so is Jordan Weissmann of Slate. Kickstarter isn’t about making someone rich from their idea. It is about someone looking for investment to bring out a product or a service.
Weissmann suggested, “Technically, Kickstarter doesn’t allow users to raise money for charity. However, creators are allowed to pocket profits when their projects are overfunded, and do with them as they please.”
That is true, but Brown had very specific goals in mind.
He posted on the Kickstarter page: “A Big Stretch Goal: $3000: My kitchen is too small! I will rent out a party hall and invite the whole internet to the potato salad party (only $10 and above will be allowed in the kitchen)! The internet loves potato salad! Let’s show them that potato salad loves the internet!!”
No, CNN called it right when Brown said he’d host a potato salad party. Backers should be allowed to attend, even if that means they need to spend more money and have to venture to Columbus, Ohio!
What makes this story all the stranger is that it isn’t exactly like Brown has won competitions or is locally famous for his potato salad. In fact, as Cnet noted, “Brown shies away from committing to any particular recipes at this point, but he did reveal an exclusive to CNET: dill will be involved, though he won’t elaborate as to whether the herb will be fresh or dried.”
In other words, he barely knows what he is doing, but apparently he is doing something right. John Greathouse of Forbes noted that Brown had the perfect timing, the right mix of humor (if not exactly the right mix of actual ingredients), brevity, engagement and he kept it simple.
If anything, this story isn’t really about potato salad; it is about the power of crowd funding and how going viral, in fact, only further boosts the possibilities. Were Brown to have missed on any level — perhaps offering to sell his “perfect recipe” (were he to actually have one) and it didn’t catch on — he wouldn’t have caught the attention of Good Morning America, CNN and The New Yorker. He’d be another guy who missed his goals.
Thus, part of what makes crowd funding work is the fact that people are hearing about it. A successful campaign often surges ahead because people don’t want to be left behind. However, even those late to the party get something.
For this one, many people will pledge money to Brown and get nothing — unless they travel to Columbus, and then, maybe, they’ll get some potato salad.
Finally, for those who didn’t pledge and still want some potato salad, CNN offered up some alternative options for those who enjoy the (yucky looking) summertime dish. CNN called out some “Great potato salad for (waaayyyy) less than $40,000.”
Image Credit: Thinkstock