3月 242009
 
In hopes of adding to your SAS Global Forum experience, we've kicked off a SAS presenters series. Here, we’ve asked some of the SAS presenters five questions to learn more about what makes them tick, why they chose to present and what they hoped you would take away from the presentation. Take a look at Bill McNeill’s answers.

Bill McNeill, Software Developer

Bill, tell me something about yourself that will show the SAS Global Forum blog readers, SAS users and your colleagues an insight into Bill McNeill.
In October, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Since then, my life has been turned upside down. I’ve seen her through five months of chemotherapy and then surgery. It has been a very trying time.

Have you been to SAS Global Forum before?
This is my first time.

What problem or customer pain were you hoping to solve with your SAS Global Forum presentation?
When I wrote Test Driving the Improvements to the INFOMAPS Procedure and LIBNAME Engine, I wanted to show customers how to take advantage of information maps from within Base SAS®.

During your presentation, what are the most important highlights or questions that you hoped to cover?
Highlighted the new features added to the INFOMAPS procedure and LIBNAME engine.
3月 242009
 
In hopes of adding to your SAS Global Forum experience, we've kicked off a SAS presenters series. Here, we’ve asked some of the SAS presenters five questions to learn more about what makes them tick, why they chose to present and what they hoped you would take away from the presentation. Take a look at Eric Gebhart’s answers.

Eric Gebhart, Software Developer

Eric, tell me something about yourself that our readers might not believe.
There is lots of stuff to answer this with. I've been unicycling since I was eleven. Recently, at a WUSS luncheon, I was asked to give a short keynote. (Not exactly a keynote. They wanted someone who would provide something a little different.) I presented while riding my unicycle.

I'm also fairly geeky. I use an Apple PowerBook Pro to do all my work. It's refreshing to be in Unix environment since that is where I started programming in 1981. I enjoy playing video games on my Playstation 3: odd games, not so much the violent or sports games. Most recently, I've played Flower and PixelJunk - Eden.

When you say you are fairly geeky, I’m sort of confused to hear of your artsy side. Tell me more about that.
I'm in to fine art, and I always try to go to the museums when I travel. I've also been known to sculpt and paint. Last November I donated two mobiles for an auction to benefit Black Mountain College Museum. I've been making mobiles in my spare time since then.

And, last year I started dancing the Argentine Tango. I’m most likely a tango addict. Earlier this month, I went to Tucson for the Tucson Tango Festival, and I arrived in DC four days early to take advantage of the DC Tango Marathon. I’ll be going to Atlanta the day after SAS Global Forum to attend the Atlanta Tango Festival.

How many times have you been to SAS Global Forum? What was your most memorable experience so far?
Nine or ten, if you count SUGI. I've been to every SAS Global Forum there's been. My first presentation at SUGI in 2000 was the most memorable. I checked my laptop in the tryout room that mirrored my presentation hall. But when I plugged it in, the video didn't work. We ate up 30 minutes of my presentation by the time we finally exported my PowerPoint slides to a CD, and then put the CD in a different computer.

The slideshow forgot all the hidden slides and the order of the slides. I talked really fast and flipped through the unnecessary slides. I coped with them being out of order.

What problem or customer pain were you hoping to solve with ODS Packages: Putting Some Zip in Your ODS Output?
I am giving new information about new or fairly new features that will explain how the features work and how to use them. I think that an understanding of how things work together gives more power to the customer. ODS packages are a new, integral part of ODS that will enable easier packaging of ODS output, but it goes beyond that. Understanding how packages work and interact within ODS gives a thorough understanding of what is possible and what the future holds.

ODS inline formatting is finally production after several years of experimental status. It has a new syntax and new abilities that can be more thoroughly exploited with a little understanding of how things work.

During your presentation, what are the most important highlights or questions that you hoped to cover?
I wanted everyone to leave with enough understanding that they could try all of these things out for themselves. I wanted them to get enough information that they could visualize and then think about how these things can be used to help streamline their processes or make better reports more easily. If I helped my audience think in new ways to solve old and new problems, then I accomplished my goal.

Were there unexpected user questions that will send you back to the drawing board?
3月 232009
 
Humor writer and Pulitzer-Prize-winning columnist Dave Barry inspired SAS Global Forum attendees during his keynote presentation at the Technical Session.

Dave Barry introduced his topic: “High-speed access to DBMS data using SAS 9.1.3 Data Engines”

No, that wasn’t it. He just plucked that from the schedule.

Then he started with an honest statement: he had never heard of the SAS Global Forum. So he went to the Internet to do some research. And do you know what he found? He found “that there is a lot of pornography on the Internet.”

When Dave was sitting backstage listening to the technical demos, he was really intimidated that the audience probably understood all of these technical terms that were being used. He gleaned from the presentations one really good word that, if you are in business today, you should use whenever possible. That word is “algorithm”.

If your boss asks you to do something, and you aren’t sure how to do it, just say something like “well, we’d have to build an algorithm for that.” It works against managers like garlic works against vampires.

Dave admits, “I’m not a computer expert. But I do use a computer. I have a computer that informs me, regularly, that I have unused items on my desktop.” Not quite sure what to do about that.

Dave spent some time talking about where he lives: Miami. “I moved there in 1986, from the United States,” he said. He found the driving habits of Miami residents difficult to get used to, until he began to understand, “in Miami, everyone is driving according to the law -- of his/her country of origin.”

Dave related the story of a 73-year-old man who drove his Chevy Cobalt onto runway 9 of the Miami-Dade airport. “I can’t even get near that place with shampoo. But this guy got in with a Chevy Cobalt. Maybe he had it in one of those see-through zippy bags that makes everything alright.”

Dave also recounted the story of a 75-lb bale of cocaine that was thrown from an airplane and almost hit the chief of police in Miami. That sort of thing doesn’t happen in Milwaukee. Miami’s department of tourism slogan: “Come back to Miami, we weren’t shooting at you.”

As a humor writer, Dave described his job like so: ”I sit around, in my underwear, and make things up. Sort of like a consultant. [boost of applause from the audience] Except that a consultant would be wearing your underwear.”

He relayed a few embarrassing stories about himself, including one about an impromptu (and perhaps unwelcome) conversation with First Lady Barbara Bush, and his use of the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile to pick up his son from middle school. Experiences like these have informed his scientific opinion of what causes spontaneous human combustion. “Sometimes, that’s your only option.”

On getting older and medical exams: “We need a way for the doctor to get to the prostate gland other than the way they do that now.” Dave recently experienced his first colonoscopy, but it wasn’t as bad as he feared. However, the preparation was less than pleasant. “The doctor prescribes a nuclear laxative. It’s so explosive that your bowels travel into the future, and you expel food that you haven’t even eaten yet.”

Has Dave Barry ever written a column that he later regretted? Yes, there was that one making fun of North Dakota’s (yes, the state) effort to boost tourism, for which they considered many ideas, including perhaps removing the word “North” from the state name so as to appear, oh, less cold. He received many angry letters from North Dakota citizens, which culminated in Dave Barry being invited to North Dakota, during January, to commemorate them naming a public facility after him. The “Dave Barry Lifting Station 6” – a sewage lifting station.

Dave, like everyone else at the conference, had something to say on the economy. Obviously it’s in horrible shape, but Dave says not to worry. Congress has a plan to spend hundreds of billions of dollars with no idea as to who’s getting it. “I don’t see how that can fail, do you?”, he asked.

On to the inspirational story… One of Dave Barry’s favorite columns was about a group of guys who had to overcome an obstacle, and they were very innovative about it. He’s speaking, of course, about the Oregon State Highway Division and their effort to clear an Oregon beach of a large whale carcass -- using dynamite. I won’t relay the story here, but there is a web site dedicated to the event and others like it.

Dave closed with an excerpt from his book Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys. The story illustrates how different the thought processes are between men and women – mainly, that women think a lot, and men, as difficult as it is for women to believe, actually think very little. His advice to women: “Lower your standards.” (Honey, are you reading this?)


[Want more? Go "behind the scenes" with Chris' interview with Dave Barry on The SAS Dummy blog.]
3月 232009
 

As you heard in Sunday’s Opening Session, SAS reinvests more than a fifth of total revenue in R&D. According to Mark Torr, Global Technology Practice Director, that investment goes into enhancements, updates and new products that SAS® users – you – request. Torr and several SAS employees performed live demos on stage to show the ease and speed of the new tools. The demos also highlighted the improved visualization capabilities.

There were several major improvements made to SAS 9.2 to reduce the complexity and improve deployment and migration. One such change, according to Torr, is to take all of the best practices from previous deployments and wrap them into a deployment wizard.

Two enhancements caused a stir in the room and on Twitter:
• SAS is now making the Interactive Dashboard available in Microsoft SharePoint. There will be no need for additional coding – it’s a simple point-and-click interface. (This will be available in about two months.)
• The Schedule Manager plug-in is a new graphical interface that defines dependencies and removes dot-file juggling.

“The thing that we’re really proud of is the fact that we’ve made tasks that you do every day faster and simpler to do,” said Torr.

Other demonstrations highlighted SAS® Enterprise Miner TM 6.1, SAS Model Manager 2.2, SAS Text Miner 4.1, SAS Forecast Server, using JMP® 8 Graph Builder with SAS Simulation Studio, and using SAS Simulation Studio with SAS/OR® in what-if scenarios to study operational performance.

The audience was spellbound by the live demonstrations especially when Keith Collins, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, began the wrap-up. He demonstrated some developments for 2010 that sparked and sizzled, including Flash graphs and SAS iPhone apps. The crowd was impressed.
3月 232009
 
Despite tight travel budgets, more than 3,200 people are registered for SAS Global Forum 2009 -- and 25 percent are from outside the US.

Why do SAS users make this conference a priority, travelling hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles to attend? Because for 34 years, SAS Global Forum (once known as SUGI) has been SAS users’ premier source for new ideas, techniques and invaluable networking. You’re now part of that tradition – and I want to help you make the most of it. Here are some of today’s highlights to get you started:

Technology Connection – At 8 a.m. in the Potomac Ballroom, you’ll get the inside scoop from SAS R&D on what’s new, what’s coming and techniques for getting the most out of your SAS software. You’ll also hear the results of the SASware Ballot®.

Dave Barry keynote – Immediately following the Tech Connection presentation, humor columnist Dave Barry will take the stage, so keep your seat, sit back and enjoy.

SAS Demo Area – Opening at 10 a.m. Monday morning, the SAS Demo Area is where you’ll find the SAS Resource Center, Alliance Café, sponsor booths and SAS software booths.

Hands-on workshops – Visit Prince George Level, Exhibit Hall B for workshops taught by expert SAS users. You’ll have access to a PC so that you can practice as you learn.

Poster Q&A – Stop by Prince George Level, Exhibit Hall C-D from 2 – 3:30 p.m. today to talk to presenters about their posters. The posters are in the SAS Demo Area throughout the conference, but today is your only chance to meet presenters and ask them about their work.

Mixer hosted by SAS – After your full day of papers and presentations, head over to the Demo Area to enjoy food, drinks and entertainment - compliments of SAS. The party lasts from 6 – 7:30 p.m.

If you’re up for a night out, check out the Broadway concert, Phantom of the Opera tonight at 8:30 p.m. on the Convention Center Level, Maryland A. All proceeds benefit the Book Drive. Tickets are $35 and are available at the Book Drive table in the Registration Area.

Have a great day!
3月 232009
 
At Opening Session, Annette Harris, Vice President of SAS Technical Support told the audience that user feedback is one of the main ingredients for improving the decision-making power of SAS software.

“We value your feedback…we encourage it…and we use it….to make our software better and more responsive to our customers’ needs,” said Harris. “Your feedback and ideas keep us grounded in what’s important to you as SAS users.”

Harris thanked the users for contributing to SAS’ success, and then introduced the 2008 SAS User Feedback Award winner as an outstanding example of someone who is using SAS® Business Analytics to find innovative methods to anticipate problems and implement solutions.

Jaroslaw Maj, Deputy IT Director at PLAYMobile of Poland, worked with SAS Research and Development, Technical Support and Product Management to improve the user interface of SAS® Web Report Studio and underlying technologies.

PLAYMobile is the fourth largest mobile operator and the first multi-media phone operator in Poland. According to Harris, in the summer of 2007, PLAYMobile chose SAS as its strategic IT partner for services as well as the implementation of the SAS BI Platform and SAS Customer Intelligence solutions.
Since then, several major projects have been completed including a Customer Data Warehouse, Analytical Data Mart, Campaign Management, Customer Segmentation and Customer Contribution Margin.

Harris said, “These advanced business analytics solutions immediately provided PLAYMobile with an opportunity to analyze and understand customer behavior, profitability, possibility of cross-sell actions and other opportunities.”

Jaroslaw provided usage cases, further clarified business needs and helped test improvements. One result of his involvement will be seen in greatly improved Web Report Studio query performance in scenarios involving 3rd party RDBMS in SAS® BI Server.
3月 232009
 
SAS Global Forum Conference Chair Lori Griffin gave a warm welcome to attendees and kicked off an Opening Session that was abuzz with excitement. Griffin told attendees that even though these are challenging times, a sense of confidence abounds at this conference because the key to success is applying solid business analytics to understand the past and predict future outcomes.

“SAS users are no strangers to analytics,” said Griffin. “Our employers depend on us to discover the hidden mysteries in the data we work with and to take the guesswork out of decision making. This is the age of analytics -- and we are in the driver’s seat.”

SAS CEO Jim Goodnight told attendees that SAS would continue to reinvest more than a fifth of total revenue in research and development (R&D).

“If you add up our R&D commitment for the past 33 years, the total is more than $5 billion,” said Goodnight. “In today’s economy, many companies are cutting back on R&D. SAS is not.”

Goodnight also participated in a demo of a new SAS solution for fraud detection: SAS® Social Network Analysis. With the economy down, crime and fraud are up, but this new solution helps organizations uncover hidden relationships between people and within data. The demo showed how organizations can detect and prevent fraudulent activity by discovering these relationships.

When SAS Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Jim Davis took the stage he discussed the current economic climate as an opportunity to put strategies in place that capitalize on the changes that are taking place around us. Companies that find new ways of doing business will emerge stronger once the crisis has passed, said Davis, who then showed how the components of the SAS Business Analytics Framework help organizations predict their future and optimize their business.

Also at Opening Session, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, FIDUCIA IT AG and The Commonwealth Bank of Australia were honored with the SAS Enterprise Excellence Award. Jaroslaw Maj of Play, the fourth largest mobile telecommunications company in Poland won this year’s User Feedback Award.

Author Stephen Baker, who wrote the book The Numerati, was the evening’s keynote presenter. He examined the trend toward decision making based on data versus “hunches.” For example, he said selling advertising used to be a matter of flipping through the Rolodex to connect with who you know. Now, he said, advertisers want data to back the claim that media exposure will help sell products.

“Analytics promises to replace our gut instincts with science,” he said. “As the pools of data expand, ruling by the gut will be a firing offense. The key is to find focus and determine what areas to go after with the data we have at hand.”
3月 232009
 
Does your SAS code lack energy?
Are your macros not 'mending'?
Is your data out of sorts?

Not to fear, because here at SAS Global Forum, we have emergency treatment for your SAS code. The new Code Doctors section allows you to bring your problematic SAS programs to a SAS subject matter expert. Take advantage of this personalized learning experience during two sessions in the Demo Area:

Monday, 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. and 2 - 4 p.m.
Tuesday, 8:30 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

This is your chance to let the experts advise you, debug your errors or just recommend some fine tuning. Questions can address syntax, logistics or concepts in a variety of SAS areas such as Base SAS, Statistics, Macros, Report Writing, ODS, SQL, SAS Enterprise Guide and more.

Bring a hard copy and/or electronic file with your code and/or log for a Code Doctor to examine. Time will be available for one-on-one consultations.
3月 222009
 
Have you heard fellow attendees talking about the “BOFs” and wondered what language they were speaking? The BOFs (Birds-of-a-Feather sessions) are informal discussion groups that give you the opportunity to meet up with other SAS® users and staff who share your specific interests.

The BOFs will be held on the Convention Center level from 6 - 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. You’ll find sign-up sheets for each topic in the Conference Registration area, or you can form your own BOF and invite others to join you.

Be sure to check the sign ups on Monday and Tuesday in case a new BOF session forms that you want to attend. Here’s a sampling of what’s available:

Monday, March 23
• SAS® 9 Administration -- 6 - 7:30 p.m., Chesapeake A
• Social Media 101 -- 6 – 7 p.m., Maryland 3
• SAS-L -- 7 - 8 p.m., Maryland 1
• MidWest SAS Users Group 2009 Conference Planning & Introduction -- 7:30 - 8 p.m., Chesapeake 8

Tuesday, March 24
• Social Media 101 -- 6 – 7 p.m., Maryland 3
• South-Central SAS Users Group -- 6:30 - 7:30 p.m., Chesapeake 8
• Pharma SAS Users Group -- 7 - 8 p.m., Chesapeake A