Bend it like our BI Dashboard experts

Go USA! Go Germany! Go Mexico! Go Colombia! Wish you were still in it, England! That’s right, it’s World Cup time, and due to the international flavor of my family, I’ve got a number of teams I’m rooting for.

I played a little soccer (or “futbol” in our house) back in the day. I can’t say I was an expert (mediocre would be generous, really), but as I watch the games, I’m amazed at how easy the professionals make it look. Pure talent aside, imagine having a window into their knowledge of the game and the techniques they use.

You may not be able to learn from the professionals on the soccer field, but you can learn from some of the best SAS experts out there—SAS consultants.

With the new (free!) e-book, SAS Consulting® Services on SAS® BI Dashboard: Interaction Examples for Dashboard Designers, dashboard designers who have a good understanding of SAS BI Dashboard can learn how to improve their dashboards with more complex, customized features. In it, Global SAS Consultant Teri Patsilaras presents three examples that show how to build complex dashboards:

Part 1: A brush interaction example

Part 2: A client-side filter interaction example

Part 3: A server-side filter interaction example

Each of these examples blends together multiple features that ultimately produce powerful dashboards for your users.

Score a goal with an assist from SAS consultants: Get your free copy today.

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So what’s the big data?

There’s a lot of excitement right now around the book, Big Data, Data Mining, and Machine Learning: Value Creation for Business Leaders and Practitioners by Jared Dean, SAS Senior Director of Research and Development.

At SAS, Dean is responsible for the development of the company’s worldwide data mining solutions. His book explains how organizations can harness the power of high-performance computing architectures as well as data mining, text analytics and machine learning algorithms.

I caught up with Dean at the Analytics 2014 conference in Frankfurt, Germany to ask him why he wrote this book.


You can also read an excerpt (PDF) from the book.

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Three reasons to learn SAS macro facility

People tend to think of the SAS macro facility as something to tackle when you’ve reached ‘advanced programmer’ status. But macro programming can be easy to learn, and it allows you to work faster and more effectively.

Here are three reasons why you should consider learning the macro facility, even if, or perhaps especially if, you’re a beginning SAS programmer:

  1. When you use the macro facility, you can accomplish repetitive tasks quickly and efficiently. A macro program can be reused many times. Parameters passed to a macro program customize the results without having to change the code within the macro program.
  2. Macro programming can provide a more modular structure to your SAS programs. SAS language that is repetitive can be generated by macro language statements in a macro program and that macro program can be referenced in your SAS program. The main program becomes easier to read – especially if you give the macro program a meaningful name for the task it performs.
  3. A more detailed reason is that it makes it much easier to pass information between steps. For example, a PROC SQL step can summarize data and save results in macro variables. These macro variables can then be used by subsequent DATA steps and PROC steps in the same SAS session to customize the processing.

And a bonus reason – most SAS programming job descriptions ask for applicants with macro programming experience. My latest book SAS Macro Programming Made Easy, Third Edition will start you down the path to obtaining that required experience.

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Catch that lazy day read and make learning a breeze with two JMP books

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It’s summertime, and that means it’s time to grab a good book and relax in the hammock out back. And, if you’re like me, having a good read that can give me a leg up at work is a bonus – and these two books are perfect hammock reading.  While they cover a broad range of ways to use JMP® to analyze data, the simple step-by-step instructions in each make learning a breeze.

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Fundamentals of Predictive Analytics with JMP -- Great for the novice user, yet useful for you advanced statistical analysts, this book covers the intermediate steps between basic statistics and predictive analytics and leads you to data mining. Learn how to apply the basic methods of predictive analytics, including linear regression, analysis of variance, classification and regression trees, logistic regression and neural networks. Check it out for step-by-step instructions on how to perform and evaluate an analysis in JMP complete with screenshots like the ones shown here.

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Also valuable for the beginner and advanced researchers, JMP for Basic Univariate and Multivariate Statistics covers a broad range of analyses.

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You’ll find descriptions and statistical details on studies from simple descriptive statistics through t-tests to regression and analysis of variance, making complex multivariate procedures easy to do. This second edition was updated from version 5 to version 10 and includes major improvements to many existing platforms with simple and clear terms followed by research examples.

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So, shake off that hammock, grab a book and kick back for some intellectually stimulating reading. Don’t forget your sunscreen and bug spray!

What are you reading this summer? Share your favorite book in the comments section.

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Write a SAS book

As SAS software continues to develop, the demand for information grows.

That’s why there’s a big recruitment effort underway at SAS Books to get experts to share their best practices on using SAS.

Recruiter Shelley Sessoms attended the Analytics 2014 conference in Frankfurt, Germany last week to find new writers.

I caught up with her at the conference to find out what she’s looking for and how potential authors can get started.

 

Here’s the link that Shelley mentioned where you can learn more and submit your proposal.

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The Most Unusual Place You’ve Had SAS

So, what is the most unusual place that you have had SAS?

Okay, I admit it; I used a somewhat provocative title and lead sentence to get you to read this blog.  It must have worked because here you are.  But, do not worry; there are no hidden meanings, untoward innuendos, or inappropriate double-entendres from here onward.  Instead, I am going to rephrase the central question with the hope that you will be inspired to answer it by taking the time to post a comment to this blog.

What I am really asking is for an answer to any of the following:

  • What is the most unusual location you have written a SAS program from?
  • What is the most unusual circumstance under which you have written a SAS program?
  • What is the most unusual computing platform that you wrote a SAS program from?
  • What is the most unusual SAS application program that you wrote?

Given the breadth and scope of the SAS experience readers of the SAS Bookshelf blogs have, I would bet that we will get a very interesting mix of answers to these questions.  Perhaps you wrote SAS programs on a laptop on the beach while on vacation.  Maybe you wrote a must-have-now SAS program at great personal risk during a ferocious lightning storm.  Perhaps you ran SAS programs in batch on a VAX computer back in the day.  Or, maybe you wrote a SAS program that computed the total number of jelly beans that could be stored in a 1-pint container.  Whatever the case, you are bound to have an interesting anecdote.

Being the author of this blog, I will go first.  I’ve written SAS programs in various office settings, at the beach, on airplanes, in hotels, and in a vacation rental at a dude ranch.  But, none of those were the most unusual for me.

The most unusual location that I wrote a SAS program from was sitting at a desk in the screened-in porch of a rental house.  At first read, that doesn’t sound too unusual.  But, the fact is that the previous week a violent thunderstorm with winds of up to 85-miles per hour swept through the Washington DC suburbs shattering an otherwise tranquil Friday night.  At about 9:45 pm, a 100-plus-foot oak tree fell completely across my back yard, through the roof from the plate glass window at the back of my living room, across the living room, across the foyer and projected forty feet into the front yard.  It cut my house in half and missed me by eight feet.  So, sitting in a rental house a mile-and-a-half away from what was left of my home, writing a SAS program was, to say the least, unusual.

I realize that is a bit of an outlier circumstance, but it is the best I can come up with.  How about you?

So, what is the most unusual place that you have had SAS?

Be sure to take a look at Michael Raithel's latest book How to Become a Top SAS Programmer.

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Stay curious! Benefit yourself and your organization

Recently one of our most popular authors, Michael Raithel, a Senior Systems Analyst for Westat, presented a SAS Talks and was interviewed for an AllAnalytics radio show.  Michael is the author of more than 25 SAS technical papers, four SAS Press books, and a popular lecturer at SAS Global Forum and regional conferences.

In his SAS Talks Webinar, Michael discusses PROC DATASETS and the versatility of this SAS PROC.  In his opinion and many other programmers would tend to agree, if you have to choose just one SAS PROC, this is the one for you.  As Michael says “it’s the veritable Swiss army knife of SAS procedures.”  Listen in to hear this outstanding author tell you why.

On the popular AllAnalytics radio show, Michael was interviewed about his newest book, “How to Become A Top SAS Programmer.” He tells that his inspiration for writing it was from years of speaking at so many SAS events, writing lots of technical papers, as well as books plus content for many SAS listservs.  Michael was finding the same issues/questions were coming up time and time again.  Many programmers were wanting advice on what he would recommend if they were new to SAS programming or programming in general, how to advance their career, how they can be the person that other SAS programmers turn to in addition to being more valuable to their organization and the list goes on and on.

With a quest for knowledge and drive to solve the business needs, you have unlimited prospects for professional growth and success ahead of you. Delve more into learning about why SAS PROC DATASETS is the PROC for you as well as how to distinguish yourself as that top SAS programmer you were meant to be when you listen in on both of these terrific events.

As Michael puts it…”Stay curious, my friend.  That is the best advice I can give to benefit your career and your organization!”

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Get comfortable programming with Medicare data and SAS

We all know the importance of understanding the data you are working with. After all, the best programmers we know have combined their lifelong pursuit of programming knowledge with a similar pursuit of some specific subject matter.

I have programmed in SAS for about 15 years and have pursued expertise in health care use, cost, and quality measurement for more than 10 of those years. I wrote my new book, SAS Programming with Medicare Administrative Data, to provide information I wish existed when I started SAS programming for Medicare and to offer the new generation of SAS programmers guidance on using Medicare data.

My hope is that this book will help readers accomplish three main goals:

Gain substantive knowledge of the Medicare program. Just knowing how to program using SAS isn’t enough. Users need to understand the Medicare program before they can successfully and accurately use Medicare data in their studies.

For example, unlike most commercial health plans, Medicare generally covers elderly beneficiaries. Therefore, the Medicare population is usually sicker than the populations enrolled in commercial plans. Also, some services do not appear in Medicare claims data, like services paid for by Medicare managed care plans (Medicare Advantage) and prescription drugs administered during a hospital stay.

Why does this matter? Let’s say you are measuring the quality of care provided for a beneficiary with diabetes who is enrolled in Medicare Advantage; without all of the claims for this beneficiary, you might analyze provider performance incorrectly by stating a test (like an HbA1c test) was not performed, when in fact it was. My book provides a primer on the Medicare program and the foundations of subject matter expertise, setting you on the right track for accurate research and analysis.

Build experience by using real-world applications that can be applied to new work. Each chapter features exercises that challenge the reader to apply knowledge of the Medicare program to real-world programming tasks. By the time readers complete the book, they will be able to develop original programs that analyze and yield statistics on enrollment, costs, service use, and quality of care.

What’s more, the examples in the book can be modified for a variety of research tasks. For example, the reader can alter beneficiary enrollment requirements when selecting a population for analysis or swap out diabetes for congestive heart failure when studying chronic conditions. In other words, readers can perform their own original research using Medicare data based on the groundwork provided in the book.

Improve their skills regardless of programming level. The book is written for programmers at all levels. Beginners can use it as a template to program a project from beginning to end, whereas more advanced users can use it to create SAS algorithms that employ methodologies for answering common research questions. SAS users are encouraged to use SAS Programming with Medicare Administrative Data as a reference guide, leveraging the included examples to address more complex real-world programming tasks.

The Medicare research field will continue to change rapidly. My hope is that SAS Programming with Medicare Administrative Data will prepare the new generation of SAS programmers to continue to provide high quality, informative research in this dynamic environment.

Matthew Gillingham is the director of health research systems at Mathematica Policy Research.

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Artisan crafted SAS programs

Madison Avenue has a new phrase to describe the things they are trying to sell to us: artisan crafted.  These days, there are artisan crafted breads and rolls, artisan crafted beers, artisan crafted coffees, artisan crafted soaps, and a host of other artisan crafted products.  Artisan crafted seems to have taken over from the word “scratch.”  There was a time when it seemed like every commercial wanted you to know that their products were “made from scratch”; many of them made from scratch daily.  While many of the same products are likely still made from scratch, apparently they are now done so by crafted artisans.

Dictionary.com (www.dictionary.com) defines artisan as:

  1. a person skilled in an applied art; a craftsperson.
  2. a person or company that makes a high-quality or distinctive product in small quantities, usually by hand or using traditional methods: our favorite local food artisans.

And, we don’t need a dictionary to know that “crafted” means fashioned, or created, or made.

So, what does this have to do with SAS?  Well, when you think about it, the SAS programs that you write from scratch are actually artisan crafted.  Sound a bit farfetched?  Think about it.

You use your personal knowledge of SAS to hand-craft a new program.  That program has to be specifically tailored to input the unique shape of the incoming data; whether it is stored in SAS data sets, tables from a relational data base, flat files, or spreadsheets.  The program must be precisely written to subset, sort, merge, or summarize the data as required.  The program needs to be customized to perform the particular calculations detailed in the specifications either in DATA steps or within SAS procedures.  The program has to be custom-made to get the fully processed data into the proper shape for output. Then, the program needs to be fashioned to produce the distinctive result set specified by your users; whether it is a report produced via the Output Delivery System, a SAS data set, or a data set in a different format.

Come on; stop smiling; it’s true!  If you have been programming in SAS for a while, then your SAS programs are indeed artisan crafted.  If you don’t think so, then make it a point to start giving them your own distinctive flair.

You can include artful touches in the programs you write that express both your own unique outlook and your own SAS craftsmanship.  Perhaps it is in the way that you construct a comment block at the top of a program.  Maybe it is how you use the SQL procedure to sort and merge instead of using PROC SORT and a DATA step.  Possibly, it is in the clever way that you macrotize a complicated program so it can be used by your colleagues.  Or, it may be the way that you adroitly use PROC REPORT in conjunction with the Output Delivery System to create professional-quality reports.  Whatever the case, your knowledge of SAS and your own unique perspective allow you to create SAS programs that are as distinct as you are.  So, be proud of your own SAS programming artistry the very next time you write a SAS program.

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog; it was artisan crafted!

Be sure to take a look at Michael Raithel's latest book How to Become a Top SAS Programmer.

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SAS author's tip: Reading excel files with the IMPORT procedure

The Little SAS BookThis week's SAS tip is from Lora Delwiche and Susan Slaughter's new edition of The Little SAS Book. This book, now in its fifth edition, has helped thousands and thousands of SAS users and is a must-have for any SAS book shelf. If you'd like to learn more about this dynamic duo of authors and their bestselling, fan-favorite book, visit our catalog.

The following excerpt is from SAS Press authors Lora Delwiche and Susan Slaughter's book “The Little SAS Book: A Primer, Fifth Edition” Copyright © 2012, SAS Institute Inc., Cary, North Carolina, USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. (please note that results may vary depending on your version of SAS software).

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