Failure Is Not An Option: Why Kickstarter Hides Failed Projects

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Dan Misener, in a fit of inspired data mining, scraped half of Kickstarter to find failed projects. He could not, it seems, find a single one. Why? Because Kickstarter hides them behind a non-searchable wall. They exist, sure, but you won’t find them with Google and they never, ever show them in their “Discover” browsing system.

And good for them.

In a general sense, Kickstarter isn’t a marketplace. It’s not like Etsy or eBay or Amazon where the slow-sellers sit next to the hot items. It is, instead, more of a competition. It’s a competition for eyeballs, for cash, and for media attention. It is more a dog show than flea market, and you don’t keep the ugly dogs on stage after the first round of judging.

What Misener discovered, in short, was that Kickstarter surfaces only successful or nearly successful projects and hides the failed ones. For example, Instaprint failed and if you search for it none of the original Kickstarter content will come up. It’s been norobot’ed.

GTar, on the other hand, is alive and well.

As is Shadowrun:

In short, in the 26,000 or so searchable Kickstarter entries there is not a single dud.

To his credit, Misener does not call this an outrage. However, as a source for potential crowdsourcing wisdom Kickstarter’s failures are as important as its successes. Although the variables are few, the configurations are many and there are reasons that project X didn’t succeed while project Y – a mere permutation of project X – pulled it off.

He writes:

Spend more than a few minutes poking around, and you’ll realize that Kickstarter’s front page and Discover pages are clearly built to highlight projects that are currently seeking funding, or have already been successfully funded.From a business perspective, this makes total sense. Kickstarter’s business model is built on taking a 5% cut of successful campaigns. Showing failures isn’t in their interest.

It is well within Kickstarter’s rights to yank junk projects off the stage. It keeps the site fresh and vibrant and a graveyard of garbage iPod Nano straps is no one’s idea of a good time. That said, to push failed projects down the memory hole with such vigor is a bit harsh. Those who do not learn from their mistakes are, after all, doomed to make another damn iPad stand.