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The History of Little Birdie

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The term Little Birdie has very specific meaning to the members of the SAS-L community.

The Jurassic Period

Back in the 1980's, when the SAS-L list started (BITNET), it was a community of users who were interested in collaborating on how they used SAS and in helping others use the software. BITNET was only for educational institutions. Commercial entities (e.g. SAS Institute) could not be directly connected. Even when it became available on the commercial Internet, SAS Institute decided that its employees should not post to SAS-L. Many of the topics discussed on SAS-L were technical in nature and so SAS wanted official answers to those questions to come from the Technical Support division (a single source for the truth - a concept that is at the foundation of SAS software).

Many SAS employees monitored SAS-L, and just as Dr. Ian Malcom said in the movie Jurassic Park

         I'm simply saying that life, uh... finds a way,

A SAS Developer will always find a way to get the word out.

Time Moves On

At some point in time SAS employees could no longer contain themselves, particularly those who were experts on some area being discussed on SAS-L. Sally Muller of UNC, right down the road from SAS headquarters in Cary, started receiving email from such SAS employees asking her to post their responses to SAS-L anonymously. Sally first posted their responses on SAS-L as if they were her own. Some people began asking Sally questions about these posts. An embarrassing silence ensued. Sally can't remember who came up with the term a little birdie, but it saved her from dissociative identity disorder. From that point on she always posted SAS employee's responses to SAS-L saying a little birdie told me...

And as we fast-forward through time, other members of SAS-L began receiving such requests from SAS employees. As of the writing of this article, there are countless Little Birdies and many SAS-L members who post on their behalf.

Further, a group of SAS-Lers, Mike Rhoads, Larry Hoyle, William Viergiver, Ray Pass, Dianne Rhodes, Jack Hamilton and Sally got together as a committee to create an award for the SAS employee who had contributed the most, that year, to SAS-L. This Friend of SAS-L, or FOSL, award would be presented to the SAS employee at the SAS-L BOF at the SAS Users Group International meeting (now SAS Global Forum), along with the MVS (Most Valuable SAS-Ler) award to the SAS-L individual(s) who contributed most to SAS-L during the year. Much to the committee's surprise the SAS manager's of the FOSL were enthusiastic about this award for their staff.

SAS's corporate line on (SAS Employee) posting to SAS-L has been refined in this era of social media. SAS employees are free to post if and when they have something useful to say.

sasCommunity Goes Online

At SAS Global Forum 2007 in Orlando, the SAS Global User's Group Executive Board announced this site,, and invited any SAS user, including SAS employees, to participate and contribute.

Little Birdie was freed. He or she can now post without the need for secrecy or internal help. And one enterprising individual at SAS discovered the site before it went public and took LittleBirdie as a user name.

Of course we know that there are lots of Little Birdies; LittleBirdie is only one.

The Tip of the Day

In February 2009, the Tip of the Day went live and LittleBirdie submitted his or her first tips. The first two were scheduled for use on March 11, 2009 and March 13, 2009.

So here's to this LittleBirdie and to all of the other birdies at SAS. May you continue to contribute.