Resolve to improve your SAS programming skills

Happy New Year to you, your families, and your colleagues!

This is the time of year when people make all types of New Year's resolutions. According to the USA.Gov web site, the most popular resolutions are:

  1. Lose Weight
  2. Volunteer to Help Others
  3. Quit Smoking
  4. Get a Better Education
  5. Get a Better Job
  6. Save Money
  7. Get Fit
  8. Eat Healthy Food
  9. Manage Stress
  10. Manage Debt
  11. Take a Trip
  12. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
  13. Drink Less Alcohol

And, these resolutions all make sense because they promote personal growth. It is a new year, so why not start making the changes that you want to carry forward throughout the year?

Along with personal changes, perhaps it is also time to consider what changes you could make to improve your SAS programming skills. There is no "most popular list of SAS resolutions" for us to reference, so I will suggest some:

  1. Lose unnecessary variables and observations when inputting data sets
  2. Volunteer to help junior SAS programmers
  3. Quit writing programs without comments in them
  4. Get a better understanding of the intricacies of PROC SQL
  5. Get more sophisticated in your SAS Macro programming
  6. Save time by re-purposing your old programs
  7. Purchase some interesting SAS Press books... and read them
  8. Join a local SAS users group and attend meetings
  9. Get better at using the Output Delivery System
  10. Take a SAS class
  11. Write a technical paper for SAS Global Forum
  12. Reduce processing time by writing more efficient programs
  13. Subscribe to the SAS communities discussion groups on

Hardly a comprehensive list, but definitely a good start, no? And, I would bet that one or more of these resolutions resonate with you; that they are things you have been wanting to do, but have not quite found the time to work on in 2014. Well, there are 360 more days of 2015 just waiting for you to dig into your own SAS resolutions.

Of course, you could simply sit back and do the same old, same old. But, how could you continue to achieve personal growth as a SAS programming professional if you did that?

Meet the new year; same as the old year--Oh, we really think not!

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5 best-selling SAS Press books of 2014


SAS Press warehouse

When it comes to exchanging gifts at Christmas, my brother and I have a tradition of buying each other books. Even when he lived away in Chicago, and everyone else in the world was buying eBooks, I could always count on a big, heavy box delivered to my house each year filled with new authors and titles he thought I’d enjoy.

If you’re buying for a book lover, who also uses SAS, our list of the best-selling books this year might be a helpful shopping guide.

Top 5 Books

  1. The Little SAS Book: A Primer, Fifth Edition
  2. Big Data Analytics: Turning Big Data into Big Money
  3. SAS Certification Prep Guide: Base Programming for SAS 9, Third Edition
  4. SAS For Dummies, Second Edition
  5. Learning SAS by Example: A Programmer’s Guide

We also have a holiday spectacular sale going on right now with 75 percent off select titles.

The best part about giving someone a book is hunting for that special one that you think they’ll enjoy. I stumbled upon the perfect book for my brother months ago and it’s something he’ll never guess. I can’t wait until he opens it!

Do you have a similar book tradition with family or friends? Please share in the comments section.

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The uncertain future

In the long run we’re unemployable. Not because we’re lazy or incompetent. It’s because we’re replaceable.

I’ve spent much of the eighteen months trying to impress on people how real this is. It’s not something that’ll happen “one day”. It’s happening now, everywhere we look. Once upon a time, I worked at General Motors as a futurist, trying to peel back the veil of a clouded future. Sadly, I probably ended being more of a Cassandra, lucky enough to see the future but cursed with never being believed.

Still, I had a great time. Increasingly though, I find myself being a “presentist”, trying to wake people to the start of the disruption we’re living through.

Every time we use an algorithm to predict something, every time we automate a low-value process, we take another step towards the future we’re creating whether we realise it or not. A future where the machines we’ve created are better, faster, and more effective than us at using data to make “good enough” decisions.

We’re still decades (if not centuries) from being able to model the human brain. The thing is though, does it even matter? Machines don’t have to be self-aware to be effective. Google’s cars don’t work because they’re smarter than us. We’re just really good at teaching them to analyse and act on data in real-time. And, that’s all it takes; the disruption we’re creating isn’t because some genius behind the scenes has a grand vision. It’s the organic result of lots of people trying to make lots of small things more efficient.

It creates an interesting question. What does a world look like where over half of of the workforce becomes structurally unemployed through no fault of their own and yet productivity continues to rise? What happens if [Okun’s law]('s_law) permanently breaks down?

About the only thing that’s certain is that we’ve never seen anything like this before. Much like the move from feudalism to capitalism, “where we’re going we don’t need roads”. From here on, it’s all uncharted territory. And for all we know, here be monsters.

It’s very possible that we’ll enter a cultural renaissance, one where the nature of social security and capitalism is fundamentally disrupted. Society may split in three, those with the skills necessary to design and automate, those whose skills are no longer needed, and those whose skills are so manual and bespoke that they cannot be automated.

Those whose skills are still in demand might have the freedom to ask and receive a margin for their knowledge. With no changes to productivity or output, those who are structurally unemployable might still receive a basic wage supported through higher taxes on those whose skills are in demand. In exchange, they receive the freedom to chase cultural or creative activities, supporting the economy through their ongoing consumption. And in doing so we might move to a new equilibrium, one characterised by greater employment freedom, more free time, and a Cambrian-like explosion of cultural creativity.

Or, it might be very different. We might equally well see increasing income inequality as those whose skills are no longer relevant are increasingly squeezed out of the market. Not everyone has the skill or experience to become a data scientist, and engineer, or a bio-technician and help build our future. And, while everyone still needs a toilet, we only need so many plumbers.

These unfortunate souls may see themselves become marginalised from society, structurally unemployable with no avenue for improvement. The relationship between youth unemployment civil unrest is well known. Even today, youth only makes up 17% of the population and yet comprise 40% of the unemployed. What happens if this becomes not just a blip in our employment data but the start of an inter-generational trend?

Our future is uncertain; much depends on whether you see the glass as being half-full or half-empty. It’s also going to be what we choose to make it.

Evan Stubbs is the author of several SAS books including his latest title, "Big Data, Big Innovation."

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Beyond traditional forecasting

David Corliss of Ford Motor Co. is currently writing a book about clustering methods in time series analysis.

I caught up with him at the Analytics 2014 conference in Las Vegas last month (where he was also presenting on this topic) to talk about these methods and why he decided to write about it.

We kicked off the interview with a question he gets a lot - how do you prepare your data?

Take a look…


His book is scheduled to be available late 2015.

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Fulfilling goals

We all have goals…personal, professional, stretch goals, goals that will move us forward quickly. I’ve talked to many people who have a goal of someday writing a book. They always say “someday” in a wistful tone, because they never feel like they’ll have enough time or knowledge to be an author. If you’re one of those folks, I’m here to tell you that the time is now. I can help you become an author now…not someday.

We have two months left in 2014. Two months to fulfill your dream…because it is possible. Check out our web site and read up on what it takes to submit a proposal. Then contact us with your idea. We’ll chat with you about your idea and the steps you can take toward your book proposal submission.

Become an author in 2014? With SAS Press’ help, you can check this one off the list!

Let SAS Press help you get your words in print.

Let SAS Press help you get your words in print.

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The innovation vampire

Innovation is easy. All you need to do is three things. 3100236400_33a70b80c7_m

First, have a great idea.

Go on, I’ll wait.

Next, make it happen. And, once that’s done, just make sure you work out how to commercialise it somehow.

Innovation’s never simple, even at the best of times. Moving from the big idea to making it happen is full of those horribly detailed problems that need solving, even if they’re not always obvious. Out of everything that doesn’t happen but should, there’s one thing that sucks the life out of ingenuity more than anything else.

Before you can innovate, you first need to work out what the heck it is you’re trying to do. Making things better only happens when everyone first agrees what “better” means.

It’s a tricky word. Sometimes, it’s managing the presence of something you need to fear. Other times, it’s the absence of something you should be terrified of. Monsters come from the most unlikely of places. Inside this space lurks your innovation vampire.

Seems goofy, right? Left alone though, it’ll eat the core out of your ability to innovate. Like their namesake, innovation vampires slowly drain the life out of your business. They absorb creativity, cloud your mind, and if left long enough, eventually kill you.

They’re also extremely good at hiding in plain sight. Even though they’re easy to see if you decide to look for them, you first need to recognise you might have an even bigger problem than you originally thought. It might not be your ability to be creative. It might just be that your problems are starting a little closer to home.

When people can’t agree on what’s important, you prevent innovation. When people can’t hold the course, you prevent commercialisation. Without both of these, you stagnate. The worst thing is that you’ll only find these problems if you actively look for them. We’re dangerously good at self-delusion. Think on this - what’s the gap between your organisation’s:

  • Stated values and actual behaviour? Everyone wants to be customer-centric. When there’s a problem, what do people do? Do they actually represent your stated values or do they still practice the behaviours you’re trying to discourage?
  • Intent and execution? The best-laid plans rarely survive first contact with the enemy. When your troops are faced with an unexpected roadblock, how do they behave? Do they mirror your mission statement or do they compromise?

Talk is cheap. Change is hard. Facing this beast head-on isn’t fun - it takes some serious self-reflection and often ends in disruption from the top down. It’s also not an easy fix; it starts and ends with culture.

But, I’m sure you already know all this. And, everything’s under control, right? So, for everyone who thinks that they don’t have any problems with an innovative vampire, here’s one last test. Seeing as you’re reading this, it’s a fair assumption that you’re probably fairly familiar with using data to make better decisions. In fact, you’re probably a big champion for data-driven decision-making.

Now, ask yourself this: every day, how many of your decisions are based on data rather than what’s in your gut? Do you walk the path you promote? Or, do you unconsciously show the behaviours that you’re trying to eliminate?

Culture starts with you. It’s a small thing, but it’s the small things that eventually have a big impact.

 Evan Stubbs is the author of several SAS books including his latest title, "Big Data, Big Innovation."

photo by Joriel “Joz” Jimenez //attribution by creative commons

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Share your SAS analytics story in Las Vegas

89319662Everyone has a story to tell – or so they say! What better place to tell your story than in Vegas! If you have a SAS analytics story then please come and share it with me at the SAS Press booth at Analytics 2014. Do you have an interesting or unusual application of SAS software? Did you have a problem at work which you solved using SAS? We would love to hear your stories and discuss the possibility of developing it into a short book or case study.

We are interested in publishing books covering the myriad of applications of SAS software and user experiences – if you have any publishing ideas and would like more information you could also drop me an email and we can arrange a short meeting.

If you are presenting and think your presentation could make a good book then please email me and I’ll add it to my agenda and we can meet up afterwards for a quick chat.

Even if you have no publishing plans right now, do come and see me and let me know what books you would like to see published, and enjoy a special conference discount on our existing titles.

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The New Normal is Strange

The first time I used the Internet it blew my mind. As a diplomat brat, at any point in time everyone I knew was everywhere but where I was. Thanks the miracles of Gopher, Veronica, IRC and email, the tyranny of distance didn’t seem so oppressive any more. When I managed to track down a friend from high-school half-way around the world, it was like the heavens opened.

It might as well have been magic as far as I understood how it worked. And, even though I couldn’t explain how, I could tell the world would never be the same again.

That’s not to say that people believed me. Most didn’t - after all, who really wanted to use Pine to talk to people around the world when you could just write a letter? The idea of chatting with people online about anything that you were into? Bizarre. And, don’t get me started with trying to use Emacs

Times change though. And, eventually the future caught up with that vague sense of “something” I sensed.

It’s easy to lose track of how much things have changed. It’s been almost forty since Star Wars hit the cinemas. TCP/IP, the lingua franca by which every device now talks to each other, wasn’t even being used on ARPANET.

Today, we’re talking of the Internet of Things. We’re expecting over 26 billion new devices to be connected by 2020. We’re already generating more data than we know what to do with, all of which is ripe for analysis.

Whether we realise it or not, we’re rocketing through another tipping point. What big data implies is not greater insight. It’s disruption.

Systems don’t need to be intelligent to make good decisions. They just need to have well-designed rules by which they can operate. What this data enables is drastically more complex rules, rules which allow ever-increasing levels of automation. And, it’s these rules that are already changing our world.

Flying cars are still a pipe dream. Self-driving cars though? They’re here. And they’re only made possible through data. They’re so good, they’re even being designed to drive faster than the speed limit to improve safety.

Analytics is creating a new world, one that’s very different to the one we’re used to. One that’s very strange.

Picture this: in a world populated with self-driving cars, who needs buses? The very nature of civil engineering changes and with almost total shared vehicular utilisation across the traffic network, all our congestion issues disappear almost overnight. Why take a bus when you can book a car to your house when you need one that’ll take you direct to your destination?

Even better, it’s drastically cheaper. With car pooling, mileage-based pricing, and 24/7 vehicle utilisation being the norm, travel costs would collapse. It’s not hard to see a future where owning a car becomes an anachronism. Much like owning a horse today, it becomes the realm of hobbyists and fanatics. As direct ownership declines, the nature of asset insurance changes drastically as risk premiums bias more and more towards human drivers against our fellow robots, further discouraging car ownership. Unfortunately, that also leads to a collapse of the car insurance, damaging the underwriting business.

This rapid decline in accident rates also sparks a collapse in organ donations, accelerating research into and demand for bio-engineering and 3-D organ printing. Medical general practitioners become largely unemployable thanks to automated & constant real-time analysis of epidemiological trends, drug interactions, and case-level differential diagnosis. Rising levels of unemployment across insurers, taxi drivers, truck drivers, and medical practitioners spark an increase in default rates, creating another credit crunch.

The logistics and taxi industries implode almost overnight, replaced by the retailers that already own the supply chains and intelligent assets needed to route their stock across the country. Much like cloud competing, logistics becomes priced as a time-shared resource, priced dynamically based on space availability across each link in the supply chain.

And all this simply because someone asked, “You know all this data we’re collecting … why don’t we use it for something?”

Futurism is like trying to wrestle an octopus in the dark; even though you’re pretty sure you’ve grabbed onto something important, you’re never quite sure whether you’re winning or losing. Still, the teenager in me is pretty confident of one thing - whether people realise it or not, the world’s changed yet again.

And, the new normal is strange.


For more work by Evan Stubbs, check out his new book Big Data, Big Innovation: Enabling Competitive Differentiation through Business Analytics.

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Let’s chat about big data and innovation

stubbs “The best data scientists are those that combine deep statistical / data / machine learning skills with domain knowledge.”

“[Most companies] haven't properly addressed the need for cultural change!... There's still this prevailing perception that it's a technology & skills problem.”

“Analytics only ever tells you one of two things—it either confirms what you knew or it suggests that you were wrong.”

“Lots of companies are getting value out of information, analytics, and big data, I think it's more a question of whether they can keep getting *more* value of their investment and capability. I prefer to look at it in terms of potential and relative performance rather than an absolute measure.”

These are just some of the insights Evan Stubbs shared during yesterday’s All Analytics Book Club e-chat about his new book, Big Data, Big Innovation: Enabling Competitive Differentiation through Business Analytics.  Evan is the Chief Analytics Officer for SAS Australia / New Zealand and he sits on the board of the Institute of Analytics Professionals of Australia. His book takes a hands-on approach, addressing not only the practicalities of big data and analytics, but also the culture that needs to exist to be successful. The author of two previous titles, Evan says he wrote this new book “for the ‘decision makers,’” in an effort to answer the question, “How do I innovate?”

As one participant put it, Evan has “taken the discussion to a level beyond where a lot of people seem to be focused, past the ‘you need analytics, accept it’ to ‘here's what you can do with it to move your company forward.’”

Do you think you could benefit from Evan’s expertise? Join the next e-chat on Tuesday, Sept. 2, at 3:00 p.m. ET, where the discussion will focus on “making it real” and “making it happen.” The Book Club will wrap up with a live, on-air interview and Q&A with Evan on Tuesday, Sept. 9, at 3:00 p.m. ET (register now).

You can also get the full story – now at 20 percent off. AllAnalytics community members who order a copy of Big Data, Big Innovation from the SAS store between now and Sept. 21, 2014, will get 20 percent off the retail price along with free shipping. Use promo code A2BCPP. (Store and discount are US only at this time. International community members can find purchasing options listed by country here.)

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SAS Press makes a stop in The Golden State

In just a few short days, I’ll fly cross-country to attend the Western Users of SAS Software conference (WUSS). I make no secret of the fact that I love California: San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, among others, are all great cities to visit.

This year WUSS will be held Sept. 3-5 in San Jose, the third-largest city in California (in fact, according to Wikipedia, it is the tenth-largest city in the United States). I look forward to checking out the city and also meeting and greeting the wonderful attendees at the conference.

I know a lot of veteran SAS Press authors will be there, and I hope to recruit other potential authors to join their ranks. We are currently looking for authors interested in writing both full-length books and shorter pieces. You can visit this link for more information. Stop by and see me at the SAS Press booth. I hope to see you there!

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