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A Panel Discussion on will be held at SAS Global Forum in San Antonio. The panel will be held from 10:30-11:20 on Monday, March 17th in Room 213.

Please post your questions/topics/concerns by editing the Questions/Topics section below.

  • note from --Nancy 20:24, 20 February 2008 (EST): Let's be sure to emphasize that this invitation to post comments is open to eveyone who can read & edit this page!
  • If you don't know how to post your comments/questions, you can e-mail them to Nancy Wilson.


  • Don Henderson is the Owner and Principal of Henderson Consulting Services, a SAS Affiliate Partner. Don has used SAS software since 1975, designing and developing business applications with a focus on data warehouse, business intelligence and analytic applications. He has used SAS/IntrNet software for over 10 years (since its initial release) and was one of the primary architects in the initial development and release of SAS/IntrNet software and was one of the original developers for the SAS/IntrNet Application Dispatcher. Don has also been actively using the SAS 9 BI architecture for a variety of SAS clients. He was also one of the Principal Architects for the site.
  • Phil Miller is a long time SAS User (going back to pre SAS 72 days) who is a Professor of Biostatistics at Washington University [1]. The Division supports a number of NIH supported data coordinating centers. SAS is heavily used in data management, including using SAS/IntrNet to support distributed data entry [2]. He was the first recipient of the SAS User Feedback Award given each year at SUGI and attended all of the SUGI annual conferences.
  • Howard Schreier is an independent consultant based in Arlington, Virginia. He has used SAS software since 1981 and has presented papers at numerous NESUG, SESUG, and SUGI conferences. He has made more than 6,000 postings to SAS-L starting in 1989, and in 2004 he entered the SAS-L Hall of Fame.
  • Tom Sherrod is an IT Director leading Online Support and Services for SAS Institute. Tom supports the web technologies at SAS including,, and the corporate intranet. Tom has over 15 years of internet and web technology experience and is one of the technical contacts for


Please update this section with questions and topics for the Panelists to consider in advance of SAS Global Forum. Note that the panelists will be priming the pump with some sample questions.

  • Some Sample Questions Posted By --Donh 23:25, 19 February 2008 (EST)
    • Are there any options for a nicer or more intuitive editor.
    • I don't like or understand how the Search buttons work. Can we replace this search with, for example, a Google search.
    • Why would I want to watch a page. And how does watching a page work.
    • Likewise, if I create a page, how can I set it up to take advantage of the watch facility.
    • Is there a way for me to be notified whenever someone changes or updates a page about a topic I am interested in (e.g., I would like to see everything new that is posted about the macro language).
    • The forums seem limited vs. the forums on the SAS site and online groups like SAS-L. Why would I want to use these forums?
    • I don't understand categories. When would I create a category vs. an article.
  • Some Sample Questions & Discussion topics Posted By --Nancy 20:15, 20 February 2008 (EST)
    • Is it appropriate to update or change someone else's article?
  • Some Sample Questions & Discussion topics Posted by --Tosher 09:56, 29 February 2008 (EST)
    • Why contribute to
    • Suggestions for top page content/links? Are you finding what you want?
    • What's a category? Should you change categories?
  • Some Sample Questions & Discussion topics Posted by --PaulOldenKamp 11:33, 3 March 2008 (EST)
    • Why is this discussion occurring at an in person SGF meeting instead of on-line in
      • The point of this discussion at SGF is to discuss how/why to improve the online experience and encourage folks to participate. So we need to do both. --Donh 14:04, 7 March 2008 (EST)
        • OK, Having the discussion at the SGF is a fine idea. I guess my question is why it hasn't gotten going on-line? --PaulOldenKamp
    • Wouldn’t it be better to have the GNU Free Documentation License be the default license for use of
    • Don’t the SGF papers currently posted to violate the copyright authors grant to the SAS Institute?
    • Have you figured out yet why empty and obsolete pages should be deleted?

that was written while I was paid is in the public domain. In the SUGI/SGF copyright grant there is now a special paragraph for us: cannot be copyrighted. YeahBut: I continue to do my own R&D for the book that I am writing and any programs that I develop on my own time, I publish them with CopyLeft. Examples are: WriteAttribute and WriteValue, which are also included in the zip of my SGF-2008 SmryEachVar paper. --macro maven == the radical programmer 17:41, 17 March 2008 (EDT)



Sunil: I would like to welcome everyone to the first session of the first day of the conference Planning, Development and Support Section. I hope this is the right section to be in. It's going to be a great variety of papers that we have to learn about better management, improving programming skills, so I do hope you plan to attend for the whole day. As the airlines say, there are a lot of options so hopefully you will be choosing this one. Please turn off your cell phones. We appreciate that. We also have no handouts. (laughter)

This morning we have a distinguished list of panels here to talk about the I'm sure you all have heard a lot about it. This is your great opportunity to ask questions you have about it and after that we will have another paper on it so I'm going to turn it over to Don Henderson and he is going to introduce the panelists. Thank you.

Don: Thank you. I'm going to let each of the panelists introduce themselves. Needless to say we've got representation here from SAS Global Users Group Executive Board. It's the Executive Board that created the site and we announced it last year and are overall responsible for it as represented by Phil Miller and myself. The next panelist is Howard Schreier who is a long time SAS user, a regular on the SAS-L mailing list; and the last panelist is Tom Sherrod. He's with SAS Institute and he is basically responsible for making sure the box is always up and running. So, but he's also here to get feedback from you all in terms of things that we need to add. So, with that, I'll just introduce myself a little bit. I date from the Jurassic SAS era. By that I mean I remember the days when the major new announcement at this conference was the ELSE statement. And Phil will attest to the fact that I am NOT kidding. That got a standing ovation. So I've been around a long time so it's a little weird for me to talk about this new fangled web 2.0 stuff but I'll try my best. Phil?

Phil: Well, I've got 2 years on Don. I remember when there was just a mimeographed manual to SAS, so… I am at Washington University, the School of Medicine, and I have been a SAS user since very early on when it was still at NC State and there wasn't even a SAS Institute. Don and I have become the self proclaimed architects of the site, simply meaning we were the ones that tried to go through and make the initial decisions at what the site might look like and what features we had and wanted to run and so on. I think that both Don and I are really old fogies and I understand people who come at new Web 2.0 kind of concepts with a preconceived notion of the way the world is and that notion is wrong. We understand where people are coming from but really the site is your site and the site is for the users to do with what they can and I'm really here to listen and try and figure out what we can do to make the site even more useful to the users.

Don: Just one thing I wanted to mention before. We are actually planning on recording this session and transcribing it and depending on how things work out if it all works out we then plan on publishing that transcript on (guess where?)

Howard Schreier: I come to sasCommunity[.org] from a SAS-L perspective and I can't compete on longevity. I'll just mention when I started on SAS-L 19 years ago, Phil Miller and Bob Hamer and some others were the regulars back then, and I see some of today's regulars here, so we've had great continuity on that vehicle. But there's a difference between discussion and collaboration. Some of you might have been present 2 years ago at the last SUGI conference. I organized a birds of a feather about the concept of starting a wiki to be the vehicle for a FAQ site for SAS-L. We had a nice discussion, but a few months passed by and I didn't do anything and neither did anyone else, and I tried to kick-start it on SAS-L and at that time I heard from Don that this [] was in the works, and I was absolutely delighted because having the executive committee and SAS Institute behind it makes it sure to come out a lot better and be a lot easier on the users.

(Howard – continued) I guess the one comment I want to make about SAS-L is to talk about the archives and the good news is that there are now about 300,000 archived messages in the SAS-L archives and the bad news is that there are 300,000 messages, and everything has been answered at least once, and sometimes somebody will say "well, search the archives". Well, let's do a reality check. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't. Of those 300,000 posts I would say the real value could be found in maybe 3,000 -- one percent and the other 297,000 are incomplete, redundant, wrong, superseded by later developments, off topic, you name it. So there ought to be a space there for taking the cumulative knowledge of that group and putting it in a more carefully organized and collaboration driven vehicle, and that's why this is great site.

Tom: My name is Tom Sherrod. I am an IT director at SAS Institute and I have been with the company for approximately 10 years now. My primary focus there has been web infrastructure, internally and externally,, and now I am providing the technical just purely from an infrastructure site for but I have also developed quite an interest in Wiki's and Blogs. I am also responsible for the team that supports a Wiki on an intranet site and we've learned a lot over the years and what I hope to do is help these guys build a great community site. So that's what I'm here to offer also.

Don: Well, thanks everybody. Well, first off, how many people here used to read at least? Okay. Of you, how many of you have contributed? Okay, that's actually very good along the lines of showing your age. (laughter)

Quick Tour

What I wanted to do is sort of give you all a quick tour of some of the concepts behind the site. I'm basically talking about how we organized this presentation. So we can find something by going to the presentations link and we can scroll down and we can see that we can find something there. The panel discussion where we talked about this and asked for some material about who the panelists are, we asked for some sample questions and some topics that we sort of prime the pump with some of these. We asked other users to contribute so this is sort of the fall over. If nobody wants to raise their hand and ask a question, because we want this to be very interactive. We want this to be a discussion. This is not four guys up here giving a joint paper. This is intended to be a panel discussion. You know, we've gotten lots of feedback in terms of certain features that either people liked or didn't like and one of the most popular dislike comments was the search function. So, one of the things we rolled out last week (it's on the main page) is a new search facility so the idea is you can go here for more information. A very brief note about the new search engine and the whole point is using this location to add your comments, ask questions, and do things. One of the things about the Web 2.0 concept is the issue of ownership is gone. There's no problem with going out and adding comments and correcting comments that somebody has made. It's basically the way Wikipedia works. So you can think about this as our version of that. So, if you have those comments or questions, please do that. So, one of the things that came up awhile ago was somebody said "we really don't like to search because we were searching for something about the ALSO clause of the WHERE statement and if you did that search, it didn't find anything. Well, now if you do that search it does find things. (He crosses his fingers.) And the problem with this is the linguistic search or the search tool that had been built in to media wiki software which is the underlying software here was ignoring certain linguistic terms because if you're asking a question you might say something like "where is accent?" I am also interested in "whatever". So you know what? It ignored the word "WHERE" and it ignored the word "ALSO" because it assumed that those were part of your linguistic way of asking the question instead of what you're interested in. Well, now since we're using these Google clients and we search, we can find something about the WHERE ALSO, and I'm only doing this because I know about this article because I actually wrote it. So there's the WHERE ALSO. And if I go down, I can see that there's lots of material on here and it's in a category that is called "WHERE". The other thing about sites like this is the typical hierarchical structure of websites doesn't apply anymore. The way you find things is what sometimes people will call tagging or categories or search. So you find this, you go to "WHERE", and now you can find he says only one other article about the WHERE clause but hopefully there will be more. There are also links in there for example that we've put in so you can link back to the SAS online doc. Lots of things you can do.

Posting Proceedings

(Question in the back) What is the plan for getting SUGI and SAS Global Forum proceedings down here ……..

Don: Okay, anybody on the panel want to take that one? I've been talking enough so far.

Tom: Well, I think one of the questions that we're looking for input from the audience is whether there are areas of duplication between and And I would like input as to where it would make sense for those things to reside. Right now, all the papers exist on, there's a nice index structure. There's a lot of infrastructure that's there that would be difficult to implement as part of the wiki. Does it make sense to have it in both places? If so, how do you reconcile? There may be different versions because if it's out on the wiki, somebody can come along and update the paper and so on. We're looking for input as to what the community would like.

(Question) How about leaving it where it is?

Tom: Well, I think that's one of the questions as he referred to. We could put it on but that's not updated by you guys or the presenters that actually put the papers there, so the wiki would give you access to actually update your papers if you wanted to change but that's a balance. That's one of the questions, is not only can you update it but someone else can update it so that's where we've got to be careful about, what proceedings or how you want it set up.

Changes Due to New Releases

(Question) What happens when you get to version 9.2 and all of a sudden the documentation for that is no longer the current one? Is that something that would have to essentially, if there were a lot of those kinds of pages, would they have to be manually updated by individual users one at a time or is there some automated way that those could all be going to the current version of them as releases go forward?

Tom: Well, see, I would be careful of the automated updates because that article that was written might be specific to that one version regardless of what might change. So, I'm careful with the automatic but I'm assuming that if it's linking to some of the articles that do get upgraded or some of the online doc that does get upgraded, the links will remain the same. It just depends on how far deep into the online doc they linked.

(Question continued) When it went from 8 to 9 for example, on our intranet we had a bunch of pages on our site that had links like for example "for more information about this PROC, see "this" and, of course, none of those in going from 8 to 9 would work anymore and I had to manually go in and change all those links.

Tom: Did they completely break or were they were pointing to the old doc?

(Questioner) They were pointing to the old doc.

Tom: Okay. That's where we tried to leave you with the old doc because we took that down and it would break links

(Questioner) Right. Of course. But in those cases if it was up on the page there, what you would have to do is get somebody to go in and manually update that link themselves.

Tom: Those are the pros and cons.

Don: Yes. And I just had a request. I just want to make sure that everybody who asks a question, we need to have you actually speak into the mic so that the recording picks up your question. So, Sunil, you are going to have to run around.

The other comment on the issues of presentations is one of the other things we thought about is a lot of these papers that are given out at the conference are going to be given at this conference again next year or are going to be given at the regional so they're sort of, I guess you could call them "classics" or "repeat papers". So, one of the things that a wiki or the framework provides is a single location where you could have your presentation with links to the PDF that you presented last year in Orlando. The update of it that you presented at WUSS, the version that you presented here so that you could, through time, allow people to monitor and track. "Well this is the version of the paper I saw a year ago but oh, cool it's been updated and there's all these new things in it." And you could do that by either uploading another version of the paper or adding a link to a wiki page or actually making your paper a wiki page and it's very much the same concept as the online doc. The whole concept of manually updating things is not as onerous a task when you think about the fact that anybody can update it. If you discover "Oh gee, I look on the WHERE clause and I see that it's only got a 9.1.3 .doc. Let me search for the 9.2 link and I'll add it to the page." I don't have to do all of them, I just do the page as I discover them and if everybody sort of kicks in and does a little bit then all of a sudden the problem goes away.

Terms of Use and License Issues

Phil: I want to back up to an issue that was mentioned. I looked recently at the "Terms of Service" page here and as I understand it there is a default license, being the

What's the default license?

Don: The GNU?

Phil: Okay. But the "Terms of Service" say "unless otherwise indicated to declare" they leave the door open for a contributor to insert a copyright and I know when I contribute a paper to a conference and sign that form, that's a "limited nonexclusive" is that how it's characterized?

Don: Right.

Phil: Something like that. I certainly wouldn't want anyone else editing my paper. So, it's not all as wide open as you might think.

Better Editor Needed/Wanted

(Panel Speaker) The subject has come up in discussion so I just wanted this out so you can use this, but it would really be nice if there was a better editor. I know that at the moment we are limited by what is provided by media wiki and extensions to that, so the only alternative is for enough people here to complain so that we have some sort of record. Then we can go to media wiki and say "You know, a lot of people have been complaining about your editor". I just wanted to put in that complaint.

Don: And I'm going to hand that complaint right to Tom because how many times have I handed that complaint to you and we have looked for extensions and there aren't any.

Tom: Okay. But there are extensions, but with each extension come pros and cons of each. These HTML editors, javascript has come a long way but each one is either tailored for a certain browser or a certain instance or a certain way of setting it up. So, everyone I've tested that Don sent, I tried on IE, IE 7 said it might work, IE 6 it falls apart, and get it on Safari and you cry your eyes out. And Firefox, maybe – maybe not and I'm trying to figure out what the balance is because in some ways I could give you a list of editors and let you pick and choose your editors but then if it posts something erroneous or it posts it all goobered up, how do we fix that? So I'm trying to balance that. Yes, weekly I get something. "Here's a new Extension, check it out". So, I've been putting in a lot of time, I've been learning a lot about editors and it's working its way there. We just need to find the right one.

Don: I guess part of the answer is "help us". You know, see if you can find some editors and on the topic of finding a better editor, one of the advantages of the 'simple' editor is that it works on this. (laughter) I'm not kidding.

Don: You know, Phil remembers before we rolled out, I'm on a train up to New York and I'm on a Blackberry and I'm updating his discussion page with a comment saying "I'm just going to see if this will work from my Blackberry". So I can actually edit a page from my Blackberry. You can tell I'm a technology geek. I can edit a page from my iPod iTouch which is an iPhone that doesn't have a phone.

Tom: So, now you can see what my testing goes through, whatever the editor has to do.

Don: So the point is, as Tom says, a better editor is nice until that better editor doesn't work on the particular browser that particular person is using.

Tom: So, one of the reasons we chose MediaWiki is that it is a prevalent piece of software with an ongoing development team and there are some ongoing efforts in editors. If you really want to throw your support, look at editors for MediaWiki and see if there's one that really sounds good to you and throw your support to them. If you are a coding geek that can help, that's even better.

As A Replacement for the SAS Contribution Server

Ron: I'm Ron and I contributed about 40 articles in the first 9 months here so I have some things we addressed about versions. In pointing to the papers in proceedings, one of the things I'm doing is putting up a zip file of all the programs that I use in R&D on my papers. For instance, I am presenting a paper today and I've made changes up until last week and so I'm getting ready to put up a new zip file with all the programs there. Since the beginning of the year, I've gotten a least half dozen e-mails from the same company saying "Could you send me the latest version from the SAS contribution server?" which I'm surprised is still out there. I put out papers that I had written in '97 and '98 on the SAS contribution server and that's no longer being maintained as of, I think the latest dates that I saw when I went out there, it's a FTP site . . .

Tom: Is it

Ron: Yes

Tom: Okay, I never heard of it as a SAS contribution server so that's kind of confusing.

Ron: So that's one of the things I wanted to make a comment about, people putting up revisions and versions. For me, it's very important that people when they write me, it's like "Where's the latest version? Is it on my flash drive; is it on my home computer?" Now it's on SAS wiki, the latest version of my code, you know, I always put it out there as a zip file and making sure I have the right name of the paper which refers to the earlier name. This is helpful to me because of the amount of code I develop.

Uploading Code/Files

Don: A follow-up comment to that and then we'll hand it to Ian, is that one of the nice things about if you upload code to and you "replace a file"? The old one is still there and you can still get to it. So, the default link will always bring you to the latest version so you can avoid issues like "I'm going to rename files just to do that." Just replace the file, somebody can go to the history, get prior versions if they really needed the version once version 17 of SAS comes out and they "really" needed a non-version of the code, they could find it.

Ownership Issues

Paul: Hi, I'm Paul and I really wanted to get back to the ownership question here, because the page I saw in there with the paragraph on ownership, to me, my reading of it clearly said that another person can do literally anything they want with the material I put on and that seems to me not to be the GNU public license kind of provision or providing any kind of licensing arrangement for the material. That gave me pause of putting my paper on there and so on because there is a sentence on there that says "Unless otherwise provided in the page" okay, so, that does imply I could put a copyright statement on my material I put on there and could provide on my own the kind of licensing protection I think would be good to have by default throughout the whole site. But then, okay, so my Global Forum paper doesn't have a copyright statement in it so if I put my PDF out there on it then I'm back in the "anything goes" arrangement here for that PDF and then the other comment that I had on the sasCommunity site about this here had to do with the relationship of SAS Global Forum papers of a document we signed for the SAS Institute on that says if we republish our papers in any place, it shall contain a copyright statement and so on. That doesn't seem to be a practice going on in the either. I think we can solve this problem if we just pick one of the public open source licenses and put it out.

Howard: Don, you should have put a lawyer on the panel (laughter)

Tom: I have a question regarding the papers contributed. I understand what you mean by licenses but the license on site, I think we have to be careful with that because is that the same applied to a wiki page versus the paper you contributed. I think what's written there is mainly for the site and you editing the site itself and putting the content there, whereas what you contribute, that's where I believe there is difference.

Ron: Well, for example, the Wikipedia has a license covering the entire site so . . .

Tom: But is that a GNU license or is that the specific license for Wikipedia?

Paul: I think they use like a GNU public document, something like that. I would have to look it up exactly which one but they do have coverage

Phil: Paul, thanks for bringing up the issue and I think we need to do some research and try to create an article to make things clearer.

Paul: Okay. Yeah. We're not lawyers. (laughter)

Editor Revisited

Phil: Yes, I think Ian had his hand up for awhile.

Ian: Well, back to the old issue about the editor. (laughter) I want to ask a stupid question. Is there any reason why you can't have more than one editor and have a link to a set of editors when you go to edit and you choose the one that works with your system?

Tom: That's what we're considering but sometimes when you select an editor, if it, for some reason, doesn't react as it should to your browser, it's awfully hard to uncheck that editor. It goobers up your whole interface into the website. I've clicked on a couple of those editors. It was painful. I had into the database and hack it out so I could get back to normal interface. So I have to be very careful implementing it for a broad audience.

Phil: In other words, bad things happen.

Tom: (laughter) yes, sorry!

Don: There are a number of editors where you have options, in fact, there are for the current editor, there are options to add or remove buttons for certain other things that you want to do and just trust me, Ian, you don't want to read all the disclaimers. Be careful about all of these things before you make a choice because once you do it, it can't be undone.

Using Watchlists

(Nancy:) Just one comment about editing the presentations and so forth. You can set pages up on your watch list too. So, if you add all your presentations to your watch list, you can keep the ideology of the site going but also make sure people don't put incorrect information in your paper and that sort of thing.

Phil: Right and in your profile, there is an option that says to automatically watch any page that you edit. That kind of makes it so that you don't necessarily have to think about if you've created something or you're interested enough in it to have edited that page. Then it automatically goes onto your watch list.

Tom: And it at least lets you roll back in case somebody has tweaked it that you didn't like. You can see the differences, actually.

Don: Yes, and I just logged in. If I go to the "My Preferences" link, this is the area down here where you can set how you're notified when a page is watched. Along the lines of presentations and the watch list, that was almost a perfect set up for one of the points that I wanted to make. I'm actually with Alan Churchill presenting a paper tomorrow on rich internet applications using Silverlite. Silverlite technology was released last week. We had to submit the PDF in early February. So the version of the PDF that is in the proceedings is garbage because it reflected Silverlite 1.0 technology and we've now got 2.0 technology and it's going to change again next week. So, one of the points Alan and I are going to make is "you know what? We've updated this a little bit and we're going to keep it updated and no, we don't have the code yet because Silverlite 2.0 was released just last week but if you're interested in this topic, don't bother to hand us a card. Go to this page, click the watch list, and as soon as we update it for any reason, you're notified." And the same thing would go for if someone had attended a presentation here, watch the page for that presentation and then the author updates it to make a correction and add new code examples and is giving it again. Once again, you are going to be notified. Bob? (laughter) Okay, Ron has the mic and I guess possession is 9/10 of the law.

Copyright/Ownership Revisited

Ron: Since we're talking and we are recording this, I have some other things on the copyright and the copyleft. So, for instance I'm a federal employee. None of my stuff is copyrighted so I have a special dispensation on my SUGI copyright page that says there is no copyright. This is already in the public domain because I was paid while I wrote the paper. But, I do a lot of work at home in my development book and I put a copyleft when I post those codes on the wiki. So, I'm having it both ways. I can't copyright my SGF and SUGI papers and I realize that. When I write an article, I point to those things and I upload the code I was paid while I was writing that but if I include like I'm doing with the paper I'm presenting today, I have utilities in there that I have developed on my own and the code that's in the .zip, that's associated with the paper, has a copyleft on it.

Don: So, along those lines, what I just did for those of you who were or were not paying attention, is I'm creating an article like typed in the little window boxer "Copyright Issues Discussion". I think I spelled it correctly. I can't increase the size of that font and basically I'm saying "please use this page to discuss issues and questions related to copyrights for content posted to this site." I click on that little button, which if you go to your browser and look at it, it looks like somebody signed their name because that is what's called inserting a signature. If I do a "Show Preview", it basically says "please use this page, etc." and it signs it with my user ID and the date that I made that comment. That looks good, so now I'm going to go ahead and save this page so I guess what I should ask is for all of you who have raised issues about copyright, make your comments here. As we do the research to find out about these things, we can post updates here. Since I created this page, I'm going to be notified on this wonderful device every time someone makes a comment.

Watchlists Revisited

(Don) One thing about watch lists, however, which is both good and bad, is if you don't click on the link when you get a notification, you won't get a notification again. Which if it's changed in the future, you need to make sure it's a continued watched page because this is one of those things where the software tries to be smart and says "You know, you're not actually doing anything with this watch list that I'm sending you, so I assume you don't care anymore so I'm not going to send you anymore watch lists."

Tom: One thing though, when you do log in and you go to your watch list? It will give you a list of the articles you were watching and that have changed and that you haven't clicked on. That way you can clean up behind yourself if it's been a long time since you've logged in.

Don: Yes, so that's the example here. If I click on my watch list, and we won't bother to look at my watch list (laughter) not because of the reason you think. The reason you think is "My watch list is pretty long because a lot of the pages . . . Phil and I for example, before the roll out last year, collaborated on using stubs for every users group in the world that we knew about. So, now when people go in and fill those out with information, we get notified.

(Unheard question)

Don: That's just it. I can turn it off. I decided to turn it on because I decided I just don't get enough e-mail. (laughter) Okay, Bob?

Bob: So, just to sort of illustrate the flexibility of the system, now I'm just another user. I am not the moral equivalent of a webmaster like Don or Phil is but while we have been sitting here, Don, if you will go to the main page . . .

Don: Sure

Bob: And then click on "Discussion". You know, up at the top?

Don: Oh right, sorry

Make Search More Prominant

Bob: I added a suggestion. It would be nice if the search function were visible more towards the top of the main page so it would be easier to find when someone just views the main page. Now, I did that, walked on and had the main page displayed, took the change, it's in there. If nothing is there for any of us to use, we could continue that discussion forever and ever and ever and discuss anything we wanted to on the main page using that feature. Also, if you go to the search button and search for "Proceedings", because we had a discussion about SAS proceedings of previous SUGI's and go to the first one, the "Archives of User Group Proceedings"; I added a link to the proceedings. Again, while Don is up there dabbling and I'm sitting here wirelessly connected, with no special privileges, any of you can do the same kind of thing.

Now, I have to admit, I'm still pretty confused by the flat nature of the wiki structure. The fact that we have a hundred zillion pages out there with little in the way of organization. That works real well for wikipedia but it's hard to find things for me. The search key helps a lot.

Navigation vs. Search

Don: Mike had a question

Don: And once again, that's sort of the reorientation, is you have to think about, you find things by searching rather than navigating.

Paul: Don, I was sort of taken by point that when you, you know, we were going back and forth on the copyright issues and you went out there. You didn't go out and create a discussion forum; you created a page for a discussion. It kind of goes along with, one of my points is, is that is seems to me that the current discussion forum capability is pretty useless because as far as I can tell, you can't "watch" a discussion as opposed to a page that has a discussion. So should we just, if there's not going to be any software change to that, should we just think about converting the 6 or 8 discussion forum items there to sort of have discussion pages and be done with it?


Don: Okay, that's a great point and what Tom didn't say is Don and I are not sending him e-mails about editors, we are sending him e-mails about the forums. (laughter) So, Phil, do you want to comment? And then Tom can perhaps follow up and Howard. Everybody wants to chime in on this one.

Phil: Well, I would just say can you find a forum wiki extension that does a better job for us? And if you can propose such a candidate, we would certainly take a look at it. We are a victim of the open software development world which doesn't have a SASware ballot. (laughter)

Tom: Okay. Now, Howard?

Howard: Forums, I think are a very big issue. We've got a great discussion vehicle on SAS-L. We don't really need to have that split into pieces. I think no good comes of that. It's a good thing that SAS-L on LISTSERV and the usenet newsgroup are (most of the time) connected on the gateway. Otherwise, the thing you need for a good discussion is critical mass and if you break it into pieces you lose the critical mass. It happens even more when people tend to think "Boy, wouldn't it be great to have a discussion on my stuff". You use PROC OBSCURE every day and you think "Boy, there's nothing better than to have a great discussion on PROC OBSCURE because it would have a great signal/noise ratio for me. But the problem is, is that you're not going to get enough people to keep it rolling. And I think that's the problem that has emerged here from time to time.

Tom: And did you hear what he said? It would be great if there was an extension for it but I've looked at other software for forums and as I've been discussing with these guys too, and you make a good point, is that the critical mass, how is that going to work? Because I've also had users or even people at SAS question, "Okay, if we have forums here, we have forums on also. So, how many sets of forums do you have? It's a web. We create forums anywhere. It's just a matter of the need and where this hits. The mass and the appeal of SAS-L and then the other forums, do we need forums here or will a page starting discussion work? I mean, the wiki is set up to actually augment these other ones and so that's where we're trying to balance it. That's why from the technical side we could do various things but I just want to make sure we pick the right technology to serve the right need.

Don: Alright Howard, I think at one point you talked about the distinction between a conversation and the results of a conversation

Howard: Yes, and we actually have a vehicle for that, because if you look on any page here, we've got the article tab which I think of as the front. And we've got the discussion tab which I think of as the back of the page.

I think I used that in my article I wrote about the style gallery?

Don: Right, correct.


Howard: And that leads me to think of another point that I wanted to make: that the wiki, the SASopedia part of the wiki, the part that's just factual presentation, it plays very nicely with SAS-L. If you're in a hurry, you can write something on SAS-L but go over to the wiki and put in a pointer. You can do it in the other direction. You can do it in both directions. They both accept links and it works very nicely.

Local and Regional User Groups

Janet: Hi, my name is Janet Stuelpner. I am the chairperson of HASUG, the Hartford area SAS User group and I was wondering if this was meant for the user groups to have their websites on sasCommunity and are there any user groups that are making it as their website.

Howard: I think we discussed this a little bit, you and me. There is a stub at least for every known user group. I'll take my group in Washington DC for an example. We already had a hosting service and we already had a website. We didn't see any need to abandon that and just use the wiki but that's certainly something a group might consider doing for economy, for simplicity. Obviously you would want somebody in the group to watch the page.

Tom: Yes, I've had several user group representatives come up to me and ask if they can do that very thing because they didn't have anything. It's not a replacement to abandon the existing ones like you were referring to, but the capability was there. Go for it.

Bob: And I think there are also some advantages. I think too often user groups are run on a shoe string and somebody donates a server and they are no longer involved then you have problems. Here we have permanent infrastructure

Don: And it also, frankly, provides an easy way for collaboration between various user group presentations. Once again, you put a presentation out there once and you can link it in multiple places. So I guess the answer is "You can do that if you want to". It provides facilities but it doesn't give you ALL the capabilities of your own hosted website. But I think it gives you a fair amount.

Howard One thing I do for example is I upload presentations "webified" by PowerPoint, which means you have to upload a main page and a directory that has dozen of pages and images. I don't know how to do that on a wiki. Maybe there's a way, I don't know.

Don: I don't think there's a way to do that.

Howard: So, it's not going to do everything but one nice thing that it does, is that if you don't have a full time webmaster, and you want to distribute the responsibility across two or more members of the local group steering committee, it's much easier to do that on a wiki.

Don: Okay. Paul?

Open Source

Paul: Just a follow along on this one here, we have a traditional website in the pacific northwest but we're intending and it got it's start with the initial postings on sasCommunity, to use it sort of in connection with our annual conference and sort of real, more temporary dynamic kinds of exchanges and more collaboration like that so we're going to use sort of both venues for a little bit different purposes there and usefulness there.

The question I wanted to ask here though had to do with how to get more participation. The example I want to cite is I'm going to host a BOF meeting at 8:00 tonight on the general topic of starting up an open source project for SAS development as a way of maybe having users contribute and exchange their work. So, I sent an e-mail out about a week ago inviting a handful of folks I know on this and it rapidly grew out of proportion and I think it may have been Howard that suggested that hey, maybe we needed to discuss this someplace else other than these flurry of e-mails. So I set up a page on (User:OpenSourceDevelopment) and explicitly invited folks that e-mailed this to move their comments over to the page there and I posted my initial e-mail there and I was hoping to kind of pull together in one place, kind of a collection of what people had said already on this is preparation and allowing other people to kind of join in to the discussion and have some history to go back on. So, that's what I intended to do but then almost nobody took me up on that and so I'm kind of wondering what I should have done to kind of to try to get everybody to kind of move their comments over and participate like that.

Howard: E-mail abuse is a serious problem. (laughter)

Bob: I've actually attended a couple of open source conferences and they had discussions about building a community. And that is one of the things, is that people respond instantly with e-mails because they find that easier. What some of the suggestion were was basically to drive it back to that page or start putting your comments in that page and it really needs the care and feeding of someone really telling people about the page and trying to drive it forward. It almost puts it on you to begin with but then it grows almost like your e-mail thread did and it works from there. All community sites that I've talked to from a boom to some other places where they want to build the community, it takes time and quite a bit of effort.


Don: Okay, well, we've now got the "Stop" sign, so we're going to have to stop. I want to thank you all. For those of you who have not yet signed up for or you need a quick tour of how to use it, I would strongly encourage you to stick around for Kirk's and Charlie's paper next. They do a great job of that. Thank you for your comments and your feedback. We also have a booth in the demo room for the global users group where you can come and talk about

Where to archive?

It appears that the most recent change to Panel Discussion served to turn the discussion tab into an archive for previous panel discussions. I think that is going to interfere with use of the discussion tab for its intended purpose, exchanging thoughts about development of Panel Discussion. Instead, how about creating subpages, like those branching off 09:38, 12 November 2008 (EST)