Tl;dr. I needed a better way to keep track of multiple backed Kickstarter projects and developed a nifty spreadsheet. I’m looking for community feedback on how it could be improved.
Hello, my name is Jason and I’m a Kickstarter addict. My addiction started simply enough. I discovered a project that promised to transport me back to my youth, a time of playing old school Sierra adventure games on my computer. The Two Guys from Andromeda were developing a spiritual successor to the Space Quest series. I was in. That was in June of 2012, 27 months and 90 backed projects ago.
I took a short break from Kickstarter after that, not pledging for another project for over a month. Then, like so many others, I stumbled across a small web series created by Wil Wheaton on the Geek & Sundry network. I have fond memories of playing board and card games with my family as a child. We’d play everything from Risk to Euchre and yes, even Monopoly. Now that I have 3 daughters of my own, this felt like the perfect opportunity to interact with them face to face, outside of the glow of TV and video games. In one of the first episodes I watched, they played a small, quick, easy-to-learn game called Get Bit. Get Bit was funded on Kickstarter. I journeyed back to the site, discovered a world of new games, and was hooked.
I’ve been very fortunate on Kickstarter. I’ve only been scammed once. *knocks on wood furiously* But I don’t consider it lucky. I read a lot. I research a lot. I have never (and probably WILL never) create a Kickstarter project on my own. However, I feel like I have a very strong THEORETICAL understanding of what it takes to run a good Kickstarter. I’ve read blogs, followed project creators on Twitter, read articles about shipping, crowdfunding theories, distribution, and development. I have interacted with the people that make my little corner of the Kickstarter universe run. I’ve done my homework.
I realized, early on in my addiction (maybe 20 games in), that the hardest part of backing so many projects wasn’t necessarily the research needed to ensure you weren’t going to get burned. It wasn’t even the tempering of expectations when it came to creator communication and fulfillment timelines. No, the sheer logistics of having what amounts to several pre-orders up in the air is daunting! If I find it a challenge just to calculate my base pledge with a couple of add-ons DURING the campaign, imagine my frustration when the surveys finally came out and I had to reproduce my original order from memory (which is NOT so good). In addition, keeping track of which projects were still due to arrive and when, without scouring my backed projects list or jotting notes and timelines in a text document, proved to be a challenge.
I decided I needed a way to visually track and organize my expenditures and timelines. I created my ‘Kickstarter Ledger’ Excel spreadsheet, using my very basic knowledge of Excel and the advice of my Excel-guru brother, and have found it to be an invaluable tool in personal project tracking. With my spreadsheet, I can easily sort and filter projects currently funding, projects due soon, creators that tend to run late, SCAMS, projects I’ve received, AND the amount of money I’ve spent on all subsets. The spreadsheet tracks ALMOST everything I need: project name, creator/company, funded date, pledge amount, estimated delivery date, updated estimated delivery date (when a project is late but the creator has a new, updated timeline), actual delivery date, and notes (which indicate scams, separate shipping of expansions, local pickup, etc.). Then, the best parts are the calculated columns which use those basic pieces of information to very explicitly state project status and days away from (or past) estimated delivery! Once a few pivot tables were added, I had quick and easy statistics for how many games were in each phase of the process (funding, waiting, delivered), which games were late, and which companies did the best job of meeting their estimates.
I’m hoping that the time I’ve spent creating and tweaking the document may make it meaningful and useful to other habitual backers. I imagine many would like a better system for tracking specific information about their backed projects. I think that Kickstarter could improve and help backers in MANY ways in this area. Until they do, though, I believe the spreadsheet fills a need that I’ve not seen addressed elsewhere.
I approached Jamey Stegmaier with the spreadsheet a few small iterations ago. I was hoping that with his experience with Kickstarters and behind-the-scenes knowledge in project creation that he may have some updates or advice to further enhance the data. He immediately had suggestions, particularly about my wording choice in terms of deadlines and estimates. In addition, he noted that, as a Google doc or community tool, the spreadsheet could be extremely useful on a broad, less personalized scale. By crowd-sourcing the data, more companies could be tracked and more project information could be tallied. The end result would be a robust look at the Kickstarter world from a backer point-of-view.
I think the crowd-source idea is fantastic. Unfortunately, I’m not sure the data I’m tracking, though adequate, is as useful and helpful as it could be. In addition, I have to wonder whether or not a spreadsheet is the right mechanism to do this tracking. I’m a software engineer by trade, and the idea of an ancillary website (much like Kicktraq and others) that allows users to store and report on their specific subset of pledged projects while storing global statistics for all projects, is very intriguing to me. I think it would be a worthwhile endeavor and a really interesting challenge.
I’ve filled in about 50 projects as an example to show the breadth of the data. If you modify items on the spreadsheet (costs, dates, etc), you can see the calculated columns change to the various statuses. On the 2nd tab, you can refresh the data to update the pivot tables. I’ve still got a few ideas I’d like to implement to make projects more obvious, visually, but this is where I’m starting. (Note: if you don’t have Microsoft Excel, the file can be imported into Google docs and works just fine.)
So, my question to the community is, how can the tracking sheet be improved? If it were to be made more globally accessible and used crowd-sourced data, what information and format would need to change to make it worthwhile? If you download the spreadsheet yourself, do you even find it useful and interesting as-is? I’m really curious to know if my idea is helpful, or if others have found more functional or robust ways of tracking their data. Please let me know (in the comments below or on Twitter).
Oh, there is one final note. Remember that first project? That game that promised a nostalgic return to my childhood created by two of my favorite video game developers of all time? That project that started me down this long path of Kickstarter addiction? It still hasn’t been delivered. But I have faith…