If you've never heard of the legendary Aesopian BJJ Blog, you either hate Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or you don't believe in the interwebs. The guys at Aesopian were blogging BJJ long before it was cool. And speaking of cool...
A couple of years ago they did a little survey of their readers to find out what gi companies people really liked. And then a super wonky statistician bjj fiend contacted them to show how he could coax out some amazing information from the survey results.
Here's what Matt from Aesopian had to say about the past surveys:
Q. Why did you start the survey?
A. The first survey was done in 2009 simply out of my curiosity about the BJJ gi market. It turned out to be very popular, so I decided to make it a regular project. The prices on gis are rising all the time, and a comprehensive review of the market helps people pick the best brands and save money.
Q. What were the most interesting results so far?
A. After the raw results of the first survey had been online for a while, a statistician contacted me to show how he had used the data to graph out brand-vs-brand rankings. Basically, he looked at "When someone owns two brands, which do they prefer?" This is where the popular "best to worst" graph came from. Here's an example of this in a graph that hasn't been published before:
Q. What are the most common questions you get from readers about the results?
A. People want to know if the top brands really deserve their reputation, or if it's just hype. They are skeptical when you see prices breaking $200 (and higher on the secondary market like eBay), when they know most of these gis are coming out of the same bunch of factories in Pakistan. How different can they really be?
I don't have solid answers to that question, since I haven't worn every brand of gi, but with the survey results we will get closer to the truth. I am also interested in researching the manufacturing side of the market, but that will be a separate project.
Q. When is the deadline for submitting?
A. The goal is to get 1500 people to fill out the survey, but there is no official date that it ends.
Q. When are the results available?
A. We hope to release the results before the holidays so they can help gift shoppers. If people are interested in seeing them sooner (and they want to help improve the quality of the results), they can share the survey with their teammates on Facebook.
Q. What brands are you including?
A. Over 100 brands are listed, but people are welcome to pick "Other" and write in any missing brands. We tried to gather up as many brand names as possible from online retailers, gear forums, BJJ blogs and the past surveys, but people are still sending in brands I've never heard of, especially outside the US.
The trouble for these smaller brands is that unless they get enough reviews, they won't make it into the final charts. One or two reviews out of thousands of gis isn't statistically significant. People have complained that the past surveys just promote the top brands and neglect the little guys, but I can only show what's in the data. If they want to help these underdogs out, they need to represent them by adding their honest reviews.
Q. Any predictions for this year?
A. In the past surveys, people were forced to pick one brand as their favorite over all others, but this isn't really how everyone thinks about their gis. On a hot summer day, I want a thin lightweight gi--in the winter, a thick comfortable gi. So which is my favorite? It depends. We worked hard to fix this and make the survey more flexible.
Now that the survey allows people to rank their gis along sliding scales, I believe we'll find two things. First, that the top brands aren't dramatically different in quality. And second, that low-to-mid range brands (in terms of price) will rise up to show that they perform well even without the fancy extras and higher price tags.
So there you have it gi fiends, the more data they have the better the information for all of us, now go fill out the survey!
- Bill Thomas