In some weird twist of fate, I have gone from being anti-social media to blogging on SAS Canada and now to blogging on the SAS Users Groups blog. Crazy world!
A little about myself first: I am married, been using SAS for about a year and a half, work for Canada's largest pediatric hospital as a database admin/data analyst, and I am a huge Star Wars fan. Now, to the important stuff.
I would guess there were about 40 people who came out to the SAS Communities Meetup: a lot of the "big" names in the various communities were there, from Matt Malczewski to Art (both Tabachnek and Carpenter), Ron Fehd (loved the getup!), Mike Raithel, Waynette Tubbs, and many, many others. I could literally feel the PROCs and DATA steps oozing from the room!
The moment Mike Rhoads welcomed everyone, I knew that this was not going to be a typical meeting - it was very relaxed, filled with humour and poking fun at one another, and just a wonderful sense of camaraderie.
SAS-L updates and news
From Mike, we moved to Tabachneck's presentation of the 26th edition of the SAS-L stats. Some of the highlights include: 379,763 total posts; 468 distinct email addresses posted 100+ times; and, according to Tabachneck's comprehensive and intense analysis, the rate at which people post to SAS-L is directly correlated to Florida's home prices (his version of statistics gives me a great deal of comfort, and I look forward to a Causal Relationships and Correlations for Dummies by him!).
Other highlights included announcement of June Genis winning the longest running sas-l thread award, namely 25 years-3 days. Tabachneck sort of assisted on that one by responding to the first ever SAS-L post three days shy of the listserv’s 25th anniversary, namely a survey about how everyone used SAS in 1986. He also announced the highest average number of lines per post (an astounding 2,759) and the most popular subject as "Out of Office" and, of course, himself as the list’s most frequent poster.
Finally, Tabachneck mentioned that the award winners’ pictures, and the powerpoint (with the analyses), could be found at: http://www.sascommunity.org/wiki/SAS-L_BOF
As a very occasional poster to SAS-L, I am impressed at the sheer volume of posts. Being involved in SAS in general, the dedication and willingness to share doesn't surprise me in the least.
Later on in the meeting, Joe Kelley spoke about future enhancements to SAS-L, including RSS Feeds (yah!) and the possibility of moving to,a new platform. Very exciting indeed!!
Third in the line-up of speakers was Don Henderson presenting on the sasCommunity.org website. As he described, the site is a Wikipedia for SAS users but not controlled by SAS institute.
There is a Tip of the Day of the section (which is in need of submitters and reviewers. I will be looking at adding this to my list of involvement in the World of SAS). There has been a recent addition to the site, which allows members to watch pages, meaning they will be notified when a change is made to the page. The other change is that the site is now customizable by hiding/showing certain areas and the site will remember it for next time on a per user basis.
The site has 6,000 confirmed users, with almost 8,000 pages overall. There have been more than 43 million views, 8 million of which have been since April 2011. There are a significant number of pages and users, and people are strongly encouraged to post, edit and comment on pages.
The other feature of the site, which I was completely unaware of, is that all papers from every SUGI/SAS Global Forum since 1976 is now available on the site. They are OCR-enabled and therefore searchable, and although I am sure many people were involved, Nat Wooding was mentioned as the main engine behind the whole thing - thanks Nat, I for one will certainly make use of all your hard work!
Communities.sas.com grows by leaps
As we moved on with the agenda, Art Carpenter got up to enlighten us about the SAS discussion forums. With over 22,000 posts, 4,700 threads, 2.1 million views and 12,000 users, communities.sas.com is giving SAS-L a run for the money. In fact, the plan is to eventually move the original post and the final response from SAS-L to the discussion forum. This will further enhance the repository of information, ensuring high quality information will be available for many users (volunteers needed, contact Art Carpenter for information).
It is no surprise that Art Tabachneck is in the top 3 posters; however, once again I wonder when he has time to eat, sleep or do anything not related to supporting SAS users! The really cool thing is that one of the other top posters is from SAS, which once again proves that SAS is not just about providing high quality software - they want to ensure we are using the software to the best of not just our ability, but to SAS's ability as well.
SASProfessionals.net’s video preso
Philip Male, from United Kingdom's SASProfessionals.net, gave a pre-recorded video presentation on his community. Briefly, the site was created in April 2008. In one year, 6,700 users joined; 39% identify themselves as novice; and there are 160 new users a month on average.
Male’s recommendations on forming a successful site include:
- Know Your Audience
- Offer Incentives and Competition
- Identify Key Contributor
- Have a Memorable Name
- Engage Others
- Measure and Report on the Site Activity
SAS Canada Community traveled far
The SAS Canada Community was modeled after SASProfessionals.net. The only significant difference is that the UK group sends out a monthly newsletter, updating its user base with news from the site.
The last of the community presentations, the SASCanada community is the one that is nearest to my heart. My good friend (and rival blogger) Matt Malczewski gave the talk, highlighting that after 9 years of User Groups, it was felt that interest waned in the times between meetings.
The website launched in April 2011 with the intent to augment the support that already exists from the SAS community (but with a Canadian slant). This has succeeded in connecting users from the Maritimes to British Columbia. Being highly active on the site, I really enjoy the chance to chat with users in an informal setting, and then meet with many of them face-to-face in the Toronto area meetings.
To highlight this success, there have been 2,462 unique visitors with a total of 540 members (68% returning users). There have been a total of 7,515 visits, resulting in more than 33,000 page views, which is very impressive in my opinion!
Joke of the Day is the most popular group, and the blogs are the most frequented area of the forum. It is my goal that in the coming year to not only increase my regularity of blogging, but also to engage more fellow Canadians to join in and participate on the site.
The meeting was about two hours long, and I hope I have successfully captured the key points and conveyed the informative, but very relaxed nature of the meeting. The last couple of points I wanted to mention were: Rick Wicklin is the first-ever SAS employee to win the SAS-L Rookie of the Year; Nat Wooding won the Most Valuable SAS-Ler;, Art Tabachneck won the Nomination Commenter of the Year Award, and Ron Fehd, auctioning off his purple top hat, raised $60 for the book drive (with an additional $51 being donated by attendees of the meeting).
Thank you to Waynette Tubbs for the opportunity to blog about this meeting; I had a lot ofof fun and look forward to helping out with blogging about future meetups!
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out my page at sascanada.ning.com/ChristopherBattiston!
~ Chris Battiston
In the corporate world, what you call your company is hugely important. Of even more importance is how carefully you guard that name. Steve Benfield, Senior Director of Corporate Communications at SAS, explained it well in his discussion about "SGF" versus SAS Global Forum. He said, “SAS® is a registered trademark. And, legally, trademarks should never be abbreviated. We run the risk of minimizing its value – and even losing its trademark status – if we use it in abbreviations too frequently.”
I've learned that the same risk is true when we join SAS with other words or parts of words even in situations like, non-SAS and SASonality. My intention was to find a word that would somehow describe SAS and these fabulous SAS characters. So, I decided to rename the series. I described the importance of the series to my colleagues and explained that an interviewee would be someone who had made such an impression that you’d just have share the story with other SAS users. After many new name suggestions, we realized that the only name that really fits is SAS Rock Stars.
So far, I’ve interviewed Don Henderson, Diane Hatcher, Ragna Préal and Véronique de Vooght from SAS Belux, Rick Wicklin, Rick Langston, Ron Fehd and Sy Truong. And there are more written and waiting to be posted: Phil Holland, SAS author and beer connoisseur; Toby Dunn, Perl Ninja and future SAS book author; and Dr. AnnMaria De Mars, gold medalist in the World Judo Championships and President of The Julia Group. I have others that aren’t even written. I can’t wait for you to read all of their stories!
You asked for these SAS Rock Stars; now who do you want to learn more about? What does SAS Rock Star mean to you? I’ve heard you use the words SAS Ninja and SAS Diva. What does it take to be a ninja or diva, and who are those people? Send me an e-mail or tweet with your suggestions and the reason he or she should be interviewed. You can also post a comment on this blog.
The SASonality series is about connecting you with SAS users that you may not have taken time to really get to know. Today, I’m going to introduce you to someone that you’ve seen at the SAS regional users group conferences. As you’ll see after reading his interview, he’s created a brand for himself so that he can meet other programmers. Read about Ron Fehd to see what you have in common, then say hello at SAS Global Forum in April. Ask him about his book and chat about your macro wins and failures.
- Every SAS user who has ever attended a SAS User Group event can probably recognize you from your characteristic propeller-topped beanie, but who is Ron Fehd, the SAS user, when events aren’t in session? What do you do?
For the first 17 years at my current employer I was a data manager and programmer for an HIV and multi-drug-resistant TB laboratory performance evaluation program. This is the period when I got my 10,000 hours of SAS programming experience. I was writing ad hoc programs that I eventually converted to macros. Today (January 2011), I attended a retirement luncheon and was congratulated on the fact that my macros, developed in SAS 9 version 6 and 8, are still working.
For the past six years, I’ve been a “sadistical/statistical” software administrator. I’m the SAS site representative and manage the license keys and installation depot for enterprise licensed statistical software. I maintain a Level 3 for SAS installation and configuration.
I am a software niche geek.
- On sasCommunity.org, your ID was intriguing. Could you tell the story behind the titles “Macro Maven and Module/Routine/Subroutine Maven?”
I began reading the international SAS listserv SAS-L in the early 90s. I was already active as a frequent poster on other listservs and knew from that experience that I needed a good and memorable screen name. I began posting to SAS-L in 1997 when I announced my first three papers on macros at SUGI. Two of the papers were about routines and the third paper was a common subroutine. A famous New York City commercial from the late 70s was about the Herring Maven. Maven is a term for someone who knows a lot about some common-place item. That’s the old Yiddish definition. … I see that public usage and Wikipedia have added quite a bit more about this term since the 1990s when usage was an inside ethnic joke.
- You said you are a “software niche geek.” Are you all geek and no play? How do you separate the work-a-day Ron and still have fun being a geek?
During the week, it’s 40 hours with my head down working. I also take time to laugh about bricolage - the tinkering, tricks, gotchas and mistakes - that make programming life … interesting. In my spare time, what better place to commiserate and brag but in a peer discussion?
- How long have you been using SAS?
I learned to use SAS in 1986 - in my first job out of college as a research assistant at Atlanta’s Georgia State University.
- With titles that include “Maven”, you must be someone’s mentor, too. Do you present, keynote, tutor, chair … ?
Mentor? Foster? Consult? Encourage is more like it. I have introduced one SAS-L Rookie of the Year, Toby Dunn, to the SAS community. He has a SAS user book under contract, now. Another person who I co-consult, Nate Derby, found me through the LaTeX (typesetting) community. The TeX typesetting system was developed by Donald Knuth. I use Leslie Lamport’s TeX macros (LaTeX) to write my papers. My CV includes more than 30 papers. I have presented 10-, 20- and 50-minute papers, hands-on workshops and half-day seminars. In all of those papers, I have just one co-author: Art Carpenter. See my review on the back of his book: Carpenter’s Complete Guide to the Macro Language, Second Edition. Frankly, I have been approached several times about being a section chair. Until I finish the first edition of my book, a work in progress since 2002, I prefer to write.
- Your LaTex paper sounds like the innovative use of SAS that I’ve been asking SAS users about. Can you tell me a little more about it?
I used SAS to write a program that would prepare an index of macro keywords in a project folder. One program wrote the index entries to a *.tex file which could be processed into a PDF. Then, I rewrote several of Donald Knuth’s Sorting and Searching algorithms in SAS.
- Who are you when you are not at SAS? (Do you have a hobby, favorite sport, charity, children, pets or grandchildren? Are you a cross-word junkie or ski diver? etc)
I am a dancer in the Contact Improv Community, and my main exercise and sport is walking. No pets, but I am a (lap) cat lover. I also attend kirtan concerts and attend the Unitarian-Universalist Congregation of Atlanta. My co-parent and I have two daughters who are in their mid-30s. Our oldest had a daughter two years ago, so I am a grand-father now and have an excuse to travel to the California Bay Area to visit them.
- As I mentioned before, everyone can recognize you by your propeller-powered beanie. It seems to only come out at certain times during the conference. Can you tell me why you wear it? You also wear conference pins and such. Can you talk about their meaning?
Sure. Check the books on creating your own buzz. Y’know I may be six feet tall, but I don’t stand out in a crowd, except for the hats! It’s all marketing. Some conferences it’s the guy with the green bow tie, others The Big Purple Hat, and yes, lately the propeller beanie, which my youngest daughter gave me 10 years ago.
Do you know how hard it is to get geeks to laugh? Once I get ‘em smiling at the hat, then a laugh is not too far behind. Conference chatchkas?! They go in and come back out of the suitcase.
- Have you ever counted the number of SAS user conferences that you’ve attended? Do you think it’s important for SAS users to attend SAS conferences? If so, what do you gain from the experience?
For SUGI/SAS Global Forum, that number is above 15. I began attending in 1989 and publishing in 1997. I’ve attended more regionals in the past decade than I have SAS Global Forums.
The SAS community executive board is examining how to get people to attend more than one conference; newcomers account for only about 30 percent of attendees. Important? I wonder when people make the decision to have a career as a SAS programmer. I have a background in the blue collar world where union membership puts you through the craftsman’s learning curve of seven years each as an apprentice, then journeyman and finally master. I didn’t publish until I had been programming for ten years in SAS, i.e. when I became a journeyman. I had mastered a niche.
For me, conference attendance has put me in touch with my peers - fellow journey-men and –women, and masters, who have made the decision to become and stay programmers. That peer recognition is invaluable in your heads-down work of solving daily problems. It makes finding a solution twice as rewarding, when your colleagues at work, and online, give you kudos.
- If you could only do one thing at the next conference, what would it be?
Find out when v9.3 will come out!
- Which of your papers is the best you’ve ever written? Why?
The SmryEachVar Suite. Anything I can do with macros, I can do without macros as well. That suite is also the reason I have added the other screen name - module/routine/subroutine maven.
- Will you be attending SAS Global Forum 2011? If so, what will you present?
I have submitted my travel orders, but will not be presenting, this year.
“Ask me about my book.” I expect to have a draft copy, at least on a flash drive.
Did you find some things in common with Fehd? Are there other questions you’d like to ask? Write them in the comments section, and I’ll get an answer. Suggest other SAS users with SASonality and questions you’d like for me to discuss with them.