Posted by R. John Howe on 11-07-2006 11:57 AM:

Patterns in Ratings and Responses

Dear folks -

One advantage of a salon like this is that it permits modest systematic comparison of responses. Even some modest analysis. Sometimes the visible patterns are interesting.

We have summarized a bit and will post the results set by set over the next few days.

Here is the summary and a little analysis of the ratings of the three yastiks. Comments, criticisms, even requests to desist, are invited.

You can see that the range of scores for the yastiks was pretty wide, but it that seems mostly due to isolated low and high scores rather than to a general spread of scores across the scale.

Most folks gave Yastiks A and B middling ratings. Only Yastik C's ratings were markedly low.

The anonymous expert rated Yastik A noticeably higher than did most of us, was in the lower middle of the ratings for Yastik B and was part of the modal group of low scores for Yastik C.

In one instance a rater rejected the scale, something that happened again with other pieces.


R. John Howe

Posted by James Blanchard on 11-07-2006 01:08 PM:

Hi John,

This is an interesting analysis. I hope you have the time, energy and interest to do this with some or all of the other sets.

I would say that if there is a limited range, and all are in the mid-range of estimates, that might say more about people's reluctance to give "strong" ratings (positive or negative), rather than a strong consensus. I would say that a set of 3's and a set of 6's is pretty strong disagreement given the usual tendency for people to score these scales towards the middle.

Another analysis might be to see whether there is agreement on the relative ranking within a set by individuals. This "ranking" analysis is probably a better way of looking at the concept of "Good", "Better" and "Best" because it takes out the vagaries of how people use the numeric scale. If you keep putting up these tables I'll see if I have some time to do that.


Posted by R. John Howe on 11-07-2006 02:09 PM:

James -

I'll do a few at least, just to demonstrate what this sort of array can show. (I don't want to bore folks.)

Please do whatever additional you are moved to do.

You are right that most survey research folks believe that unless raters are definitely "moved" by something they will tend to rate in middling positions. This is part of what the two tiered rating scheme I proposed was designed to counteract. Once a rater chose a position in an initial three alternative scale he/she was asked to refine that indication with a second three position rating. Unfortunately, I misestimated how strongly some raters would resist using Sack's technically defined "Good" which he makes clear is definitely not. I was also surprised at the resistance to using any numerical scale at all and to the objections to the length of the one provided. Live and learn.

I actually have a 25-page array, by name, rating and ascending scores, with rationales somewhat reduced (but not nearly enough for presentation). If you want that, write me at and I'll send it your way.


R. John Howe

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-07-2006 04:54 PM:

Shahsavan Mafrash End Panel Ratings Array

Dear folks -

Richard Tomlinson put up one of the sets of textiles for comparison and rating in this salon that drew a large number of raters. (I apologize for misspelling Richard's last name in some of these data arrays. I was moving a bit too fast and without an editor.)

Here is my data array on the ratings of the Shahsavan mafrash end panels.

Although there were fairly wide distributions of scores on A and B, there was also a visible tendency to give these two pieces middling to higher numbers.

But agreement broke down about how C should be rated. One four-person group, including Mr. Tomlinson, felt that this piece deserved very high scores. But another group with equal numbers rated this piece down quite seriously at the 3-4 levels.

Others may see additional noteworthy patterns in this data array.


R. John Howe

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-07-2006 06:14 PM:

Yuncu Kilim Ratings Array and Controversy

Dear folks -

OK, I'm up for one more of these data arrays.

Another set of textiles that drew both quite a few raters and even some mild controversy were the Yuncu kilims.

Here is my data array on the ratings of these three pieces.

Piece B drew mostly low to middling ratings with only one high exception. My anonymous expert gave it a 3.

Piece C drew a cluster of "Best" ratings and some associated higher number scores. My anonymous expert gave it a higher middling score of 6. There were relatively few lower scores.

The serious disagreements were about kilim A.

Only three people scored it high and most scored it quite low. But the real problem was that the scorer who had objected to comparability of the jajim set, made this argument again with regard to kilim A. He felt that comparisons could not legitimately be made between kilim A on one hand and kilims B and C on the other, saying they were two distinctive types.

Although my anonymous expert scored kilm A 7, he/she made a similar suggestion about comparability saying that in fact each of these three pieces needed to be rated as distinct types.

This led to a discussion of how to determine comparability. It does appear that kilims B and C (of the polychrome group) have a coarser weave and heavier handle than do pieces from the "red and blue " group from which A is drawn. This division seems also evidenced by a distinctive end finish used only on red and blue group pieces.

The rater, who objected to the original comparison, demonstrated, with examples, how he would propose to group Yuncu kilims by design. This was a useful demonstration, but the question was raised during it of whether design differences are a sufficient basis for both detecting distinctive groups and for deciding what comparisons are possible.

Others may detect further aspects of this data array and the associated vigorous conversation, deserving of notice.

I plan to make some general comments about sets that did not draw many ratings but this is the last data array of this sort that I plan.

Of course, the data I am drawing on is available to all of us in this conversation. What I have done is transfer it to a Word table, printed the table document, scanned it in jpg format, sent it as an email attachment to Steve Price, who has put it up as a graphic that I use in my posts. So if you want to continue you are now fully equipped to do so.

My thanks to those who have offered their ratings and reasoning in this salon.


R. John Howe

P.S.: Overnight Filiberto suggests that it is better to scan text in gif format rather than the jpg one I advised above and used. He says compressed text in gif format will produce less fuzzy characters.

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-08-2006 07:59 AM:

The Seeming Effect of Early Negative Comment

Dear folks -

There is one more general phenomenon visible in this salon that I want to point out.

It is that if there is strong, early, negative or critical comment on a particular set, not many subsequent ratings are attempted.

It happened to some extent in the case of the Quashqa'i "mille-fleurs," niche-design pieces, after Marvin said he disliked them. We did get four raters, but, Wendel, who was to be my anonymous expert, was sufficiently discouraged by the seeming lack of interest in, and appreciation for, this format, that he did not rate them himself, but simply provided a Moghul example that he felt indicated what such pieces can be. (Note: My previous sentence has subsequently been made untrue. Wendel has submitted his rating of the "mille-fleurs" examples I provided and made further detailed analysis and comment on the aesthetic qualities of this type. You can read what he has written in that thread.)

It happened in the case of the Shahsavan jajims from Moghan, after Louis questioned their comparability (although he rated them himself from a strictly "occidental" point of view, all, by the way, that the salon ever asked). Only he and I rated this set.

And it happened with the last set of older Azarbaijan "silk embroideries," after Sue seemed to say (her actual sentence does not parse) that she had never liked suzanis and that these pieces made that dislike even stronger. I was the only actual rater of these embroideries.

I'm not sure what happened with these sets. Maybe they are all simply of less interest to those who participated in other sets. Perhaps they are instances of varieties that are less familiar, and their relative strangeness made folk reluctant to rate only on what they could see (notice that, if the latter is the case, it indicates that we are often likely drawiing, as we rate, on on information and aspects beyond the purely visual). But I wonder, too, if there is not some hesitation to rate following a strong negative or critical comment.

Just musing.


R. John Howe

Posted by Steve Price on 11-08-2006 08:21 AM:

Hi John

I can't speak for anyone but myself, but the reasons I made no comments about any of those three sets were as follows:
1. Qashqa'i millefleur: I don't have enough of an aprpeciation of them to form a set of criteria for judging them with which I'm comfortable. I've seen a few, and thought they were stunning rugs, but never spent the time to develop a feeling for what it was about them that struck me.
2. Jajim: The whole genre leaves me cold except for their tactile qualities, which can be wonderful. That, of course, is outside the range of what we can deal with in photos of rugs that are not in hand.
3. Azerbaijani embroideries: I know that these generate lots of collector interest, but they do no more for me than most urban Persian carpets do. Like you, I was baffled by Sue's linking them to Uzbek suzani, with which they share nothing except the use of silk floss and the fact that they are embroidered.


Steve Price

Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-09-2006 10:57 PM:


Some feedback grist for your mill. For my own part, negative response up front instigates me forward if I am fairly strongly positive about the piece. Thus, I was moved to jump in on the "mille fleurs" set when Marvin (that usual paragon of good taste) gave them the back of his hand. Some I refrained from rating because I didn't think I had much to say, the jajims, for example. I find them reasonably pleasant, but not very moving, and I don't know much about the genre. I would have passed on the Shahsavan panels, but I really liked C. (By the way, you left me off that table. No offense taken, though.) I hate to encourage Sue, but the Azerbaijani suzanis are not my cup of tea either.

I think the thread was (is) a big success, and much of the discussion was interesting and illuminating; the Yuncu kilim set, for example, and many others too. I knew I liked the mille fleurs "B" example, but I had a much better idea why after reading Wendel's comments. As always, thanks for all the work in putting these up.

Rich Larkin

Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni on 11-10-2006 02:50 AM:

Some I refrained from rating because I didn't think I had much to say, the jajims, for example
I agree with Richard, it works the same for me...
I think it was an interesting exercise, anyway. You see how people use different approaches in making their judgments. And someone used quite strong words too.


Posted by R. John Howe on 11-10-2006 07:09 AM:

Rich -

I am sorry to have left your ratings out of the summary of the Shahsavan end panels.

My only excuses are that I was working quickly, without either adequate clerical skills or editorial assistance.


R. John Howe

Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-10-2006 08:31 AM:


Nothing to be sorry about here. The thing to be sorry about is that the "B" mille fleurs entry isn't in my collection.


Rich Larkin

Posted by James Blanchard on 11-12-2006 10:03 AM:

Hi all,

Here are some further analyses from an epidemiologist stuck in a hotel room in Pakistan on Sunday night....

There are two ways of looking at ratings. First, you can score ratings numerically and then add up the average ratings to come up with an overall rating. Another approach is to look at rankings, with the assumption that raters might be more certain about rankings than numeric ratings.

So based on the rating data that John shared, here are a couple of analyses.

1. Overall rankings based on the relative ranking of raters.
2. Agreement on rankings from among all raters.


A. Average ranking 1.6 (3 top rankings)
B. Average ranking 1.6 (4 top rankings)
C. Average ranking 2.6 (1 top ranking)

So, overall there was similar support for A and B as the best, and a fairly strong consensus that C was the least good.

In terms of agreement on rankings, the overall percent agreement was about 48%. In other words, overall the raters agreed on the relative rankings of the Yastiks in just under 50% of the cases. Because there will be some agreement by chance, I computed a statistic of agreement that looks at the level of agreement beyond what would be expected by chance (Kappa statistic). Kappa was 0.22 for this set, which is quite low.

Shahsavan Mafrash....

A. Average ranking 2.1 (3 tops)
B. Average ranking 2.1 (1 tops)
C. Average ranking 1.9 (5 tops)

Percent agreement: 48%
Kappa: 0.22

Note... the average rankings of these are close because there was a high degree of polarity. Raters seemed to rank A and C at either end of the spectrum (first or last), with B often in the middle, which brought up the agreement score.

Yuncu Kilim....

A. Average ranking 1.9 (4 tops)
B. Average ranking 2.4 (1 tops)
C. Average ranking 1.5 (6 tops)

Percent agreement: 29%
Kappa: -0.06 (actually LESS agreement than expected by chance).

My summary... it's a good thing weavers were able to bring diversity to their basic design idioms because collectors have different taste.

Don't you think this sort of analysis would be interesting to do on a larger sample? It might be interesting to include other assessments, such as dating to see how much agreement there is on that.



Posted by R. John Howe on 11-12-2006 04:49 PM:

Hi James -

Thanks for this further analysis.

Yes, the small N is always a problem in a group like this. Not sure what to do about that.

But I was wondering underwhat circumstances statisticians would license doing means on only part of a distribution?

I have been taught (and I'm no statistician) that with a small N the mean is very sensitive to the extremes of the distribution and that the median is usually seen to be more stable.

There, I'm already demonstrating one of the great problems with using statistics at all. Very quickly the focus of the data is lost and one begins to talk mostly about statistical methodology.


R. John Howe

Posted by James Blanchard on 11-12-2006 09:45 PM:

Hi John,

You are right that such a small sample should be anathema to ANY statistical analysis. Still, these simple analyses probably do capture the gist of the ratings.

I was calculating the average ranking, which has a range of only 1 to 3, so there are no "outliers" to skew the distribution. It is not different from computing what we call the "rank-sum", which is a non-parametric measure, meaning that it doesn't depend on the shape of the underlying distribution (i.e. doesn't assume a normal or bell-shaped distribution). Basically, a lower "rank-sum" score means that in that group the set of raters gave that rug an overall higher ranking, (irrespective of their numeric scores). A median is also a non-parametric measure, but in this case it would probably not be very informative since the range is so limited and it is quite possible for all of the rugs in each group to have the same median rank.

Sorry for making a pretty simple dataset seem so complicated.


Posted by Steve Price on 11-13-2006 05:42 AM:

Hi John

You wrote, ... one of the great problems with using statistics at all. Very quickly the focus of the data is lost and one begins to talk mostly about statistical methodology.

You're right, of course. But the alternative is to not evaluate data at all except when the conclusions from statistical analysis are so obvious in advance that you can skip actually doing the analysis.


Steve Price

Posted by James Blanchard on 11-13-2006 09:04 AM:

Hi John and Steve,

In this case I think that the simple descriptive statistics do actually summarize the rating process for these three groups of weavings more succinctly than could be done by summarizing in words what we read in the posts and what is displayed in John's tables. First, I think they accurately summarize the overall opinions in terms of the relative rankings. Second, I think they clearly indicate the lack of agreement in the rankings, and accurately indicate that opinions were most varied for the Yuncu kilim.

Major Greenwood, an early pioneer of modern epidemiology summed it up in 1935 (1st half of the 20th century, for rug collectors) much more eloquently than I could....

“The physician’s unit of study is a single human being, the epidemiologist’s unit is not a single human being but an aggregate of human beings, and since it is impossible to hold in the mind distinctly a mass of separate particulars he forms a general picture, an average of what is happening, and works upon that.”


Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 11-13-2006 12:57 PM:

But James,

Answers can be succinctly crunched for understanding but never packaged so elegantly, efficiently, purposely, and meaningfully, as are "germs" who's job it is to recycle.

It has been known for years, statistically, for instance, that the most contaminated objects in hospitals are physician's pens. What has come from that, I ask, but stronger "germs"? Nothing. Sue

Posted by James Blanchard on 11-13-2006 02:12 PM:

Hi Sue,

I think that you underestimate the value of "answers crunched for understanding". I won't bore everyone with the litany of discoveries made by an understanding the distribution of diseases, and the public health good that has come from this knowledge. Does this mean that all such knowledge is acted upon? Of course not.

"Stronger germs", by which I suppose you mean those that are resistant to antibiotics, are not developed ON doctors pens but rather through the ink emanating from these pens. Antibiotic resistance is a result of inappropriate antibiotic use, which is usually prescribed by doctors. Still, I agree that doctors should wash their hands a lot.

But we are getting a long way from rugs now...



Posted by Steve Price on 11-13-2006 02:21 PM:

Hi Sue

What basis do you have for believing that the existence of germs on physicians' pens is a significant factor leading to the development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria (I am assuming that this is what you mean by "stronger germs", since I can't think of a sensible alternative interpretation)?

If your point is that statistics can be misused and misinterpreted, you're right. This empahsizes the importance of understanding statistics and using it properly; it isn't a reason to abandon statistical analysis.

Steve Price

Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-13-2006 04:25 PM:

disease is rampant


Did Major Greenwood find the time to address "rug fever" in epidemiological terms?

Rich Larkin

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-13-2006 05:12 PM:

Very good, Rich. Now we're back to rugs.

I do know that it can be contracted in antique shops and of course, flea markets, but also in fairly high class places (you'd think they'd have better prophylactics) like museums.

Unlike some other areas of interest (say dog breeding and exhibiting, which has a pretty regular cycle of five years between the purchase of the first show-able dog and the day on which the divorce papers are filed) there seems no cure for rug collecting once contracted.

Those who begin to collect rugs and textiles are usually stoppable only by the grave. Very hungry rug people sometimes wear T-shirts confessing to their plight.

The T-shirts do not say "Will work for food." but rather "Will work for rugs."


R. John Howe

Posted by Marvin Amstey on 11-13-2006 05:20 PM:

Docs don't use pens (anymore), not even ball point pens, which have never been impicated in sreading "germs". Docs are now using computers, and James is correct, doctors over use antibiotics and don't wash their hands enough. I speak as a doc an an ID subspecialist, but what's this to do with rugs???

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-13-2006 06:25 PM:

Actually, Marvin, Rich had just taken us off this tangent.

You have taken us back.


R. John Howe

Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-13-2006 09:23 PM:


Actually, I'm a survivor. I just log in on Turkotek from time to time to prove I don't really need it. I'm not buying. Thank goodness. I think the rugs I bought 25 years ago are marked up on the average about ten percant over my cost. (That's the end of my financial reporting, Steve.) Seriously, though, some of my favorite pieces remain some of the ones I spent the least for. It is a bit frightening how much one would feel one had to have a certain rug. For me, it was pile. Often Baluch. They didn't have to be great, just OK. Oh well.

Rich Larkin

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-14-2006 02:07 PM:

Rich -

You don't mean "survivor," you mean "recovered" rug addict a category I suggested didn't exist among the living.

I think you're the first one I've met.

We need to cherish you as a rare breed.


R. John Howe

Posted by Patrick Weiler on 11-15-2006 12:28 AM:

Scientific Proof


Did you join a 12-step program, or did you quit "Cold Turkish"?

Did the Rugs Unonymous Group (RUG) program give you a T-shirt reading "JUST SAY NO TO RUGS"?
Will the next ACOR or ICOC sell T-shirts with "Buy Rugs, Not Drugs"?
I wonder if Tipper Gore will weigh in on this topic.
And, Marvin, wall to wall rugs have been shown to increase infections, but bare wood floors with throw rugs are better for your health.

Patrick Weiler

Posted by Steve Price on 11-15-2006 05:41 AM:

Hi Pat

Your post reminds me that the late Heinrich Kirchheim, arguably the most aggressive collector of rugs ever, used to wear a T-shirt that said "Say no to rugs". I'm pretty sure I remember seeing a photo in HALI of him wearing it.


Steve Price

Posted by Richard Larkin on 11-15-2006 02:30 PM:


That was a "12 gul" program, and yes, I did take it. Regarding the "Buy Rugs, Not Drugs" situation, I have a (tragic or hilarious) story (take your pick) in that area that, alas, cannot be aired on the pages of Turkotek. To paraphrase Dr. Watson in "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty," some time will have to pass before the story can be safely told. If I ever buy you a beer at some upcoming conference, which I'm sure to boycott, I'll share the details.

Rich Larkin