SAS Communities Meetup: An insider's view

In some weird twist of fate, I have gone from being anti-social media to blogging on SAS Canada and now to blogging on the SAS Users Groups blog. Crazy world!

A little about myself first: I am married, been using SAS for about a year and a half, work for Canada's largest pediatric hospital as a database admin/data analyst, and I am a huge Star Wars fan. Now, to the important stuff.

I would guess there were about 40 people who came out to the SAS Communities Meetup: a lot of the "big" names in the various communities were there, from Matt Malczewski to Art (both Tabachnek and Carpenter), Ron Fehd (loved the getup!), Mike Raithel, Waynette Tubbs, and many, many others. I could literally feel the PROCs and DATA steps oozing from the room!

The moment Mike Rhoads welcomed everyone, I knew that this was not going to be a typical meeting - it was very relaxed, filled with humour and poking fun at one another, and just a wonderful sense of camaraderie.

SAS-L updates and news

From Mike, we moved to Tabachneck's presentation of the 26th edition of the SAS-L stats. Some of the highlights include: 379,763 total posts; 468 distinct email addresses posted 100+ times; and, according to Tabachneck's comprehensive and intense analysis, the rate at which people post to SAS-L is directly correlated to Florida's home prices (his version of statistics gives me a great deal of comfort, and I look forward to a Causal Relationships and Correlations for Dummies by him!).

Other highlights included announcement of June Genis winning the longest running sas-l thread award, namely 25 years-3 days.  Tabachneck sort of assisted on that one by responding to the first ever SAS-L post three days shy of the listserv’s 25th anniversary, namely a survey about how everyone used SAS in 1986.  He also announced the highest average number of lines per post (an astounding 2,759) and the most popular subject as "Out of Office" and, of course, himself as the list’s most frequent poster.

Finally, Tabachneck mentioned that the award winners’ pictures, and the powerpoint (with the analyses), could be found at: http://www.sascommunity.org/wiki/SAS-L_BOF

As a very occasional poster to SAS-L, I am impressed at the sheer volume of posts. Being involved in SAS in general, the dedication and willingness to share doesn't surprise me in the least.

Later on in the meeting, Joe Kelley spoke about future enhancements to SAS-L, including RSS Feeds (yah!) and the possibility of moving to,a new platform.  Very exciting indeed!!

SASCommunity.org briefly

Third in the line-up of speakers was Don Henderson presenting on the sasCommunity.org website. As he described, the site is a Wikipedia for SAS users but not controlled by SAS institute.

There is a Tip of the Day of the section (which is in need of submitters and reviewers. I will be looking at adding this to my list of involvement in the World of SAS). There has been a recent addition to the site, which allows members to watch pages, meaning they will be notified when a change is made to the page. The other change is that the site is now customizable by hiding/showing certain areas and the site will remember it for next time on a per user basis.

The site has 6,000 confirmed users, with almost 8,000 pages overall. There have been more than 43 million views, 8 million of which have been since April 2011. There are a significant number of pages and users, and people are strongly encouraged to post, edit and comment on pages.

The other feature of the site, which I was completely unaware of, is that all papers from every SUGI/SAS Global Forum since 1976 is now available on the site. They are OCR-enabled and therefore searchable, and although I am sure many people were involved, Nat Wooding was mentioned as the main engine behind the whole thing - thanks Nat, I for one will certainly make use of all your hard work!

Communities.sas.com grows by leaps

As we moved on with the agenda, Art Carpenter got up to enlighten us about the SAS discussion forums.  With over 22,000 posts, 4,700 threads, 2.1 million views and 12,000 users, communities.sas.com is giving SAS-L a run for the money.  In fact, the plan is to eventually move the original post and the final response from SAS-L to the discussion forum.  This will further enhance the repository of information, ensuring high quality information will be available for many users (volunteers needed, contact Art Carpenter for information).

It is no surprise that Art Tabachneck is in the top 3 posters; however, once again I wonder when he has time to eat, sleep or do anything not related to supporting SAS users! The really cool thing is that one of the other top posters is from SAS, which once again proves that SAS is not just about providing high quality software - they want to ensure we are using the software to the best of not just our ability, but to SAS's ability as well.

SASProfessionals.net’s video preso

Philip Male, from United Kingdom's SASProfessionals.net, gave a pre-recorded video presentation on his community. Briefly, the site was created in April 2008. In one year, 6,700 users joined; 39% identify themselves as novice; and there are 160 new users a month on average.

Male’s recommendations on forming a successful site include:

  • Know Your Audience
  • Offer Incentives and Competition
  • Identify Key Contributor
  • Have a Memorable Name
  • Engage Others
  • Measure and Report on the Site Activity

SAS Canada Community traveled far

The SAS Canada Community was modeled after SASProfessionals.net. The only significant difference is that the UK group sends out a monthly newsletter, updating its user base with news from the site.

The last of the community presentations, the SASCanada community is the one that is nearest to my heart. My good friend (and rival blogger) Matt Malczewski gave the talk, highlighting that after 9 years of User Groups, it was felt that interest waned in the times between meetings.

The website launched in April 2011 with the intent to augment the support that already exists from the SAS community (but with a Canadian slant). This has succeeded in connecting users from the Maritimes to British Columbia. Being highly active on the site, I really enjoy the chance to chat with users in an informal setting, and then meet with many of them face-to-face in the Toronto area meetings.

To highlight this success, there have been 2,462 unique visitors with a total of 540 members (68% returning users). There have been a total of 7,515 visits, resulting in more than 33,000 page views, which is very impressive in my opinion!

Joke of the Day is the most popular group, and the blogs are the most frequented area of the forum. It is my goal that in the coming year to not only increase my regularity of blogging, but also to engage more fellow Canadians to join in and participate on the site.

The meeting was about two hours long, and I hope I have successfully captured the key points and conveyed the informative, but very relaxed nature of the meeting.  The last couple of points I wanted to mention were: Rick Wicklin is the first-ever SAS employee to win the SAS-L Rookie of the Year; Nat Wooding won the Most Valuable SAS-Ler;, Art Tabachneck won the Nomination Commenter of the Year Award, and Ron Fehd, auctioning off his purple top hat, raised $60 for the book drive (with an additional $51 being donated by attendees of the meeting).

Thank you to Waynette Tubbs for the opportunity to blog about this meeting; I had a lot ofof fun and look forward to helping out with blogging about future meetups!

Feel free to email me at darth.pathos@gmail.com, or check out my page at sascanada.ning.com/ChristopherBattiston!

~ Chris Battiston

tags: SAS Global Forum, SAS-L, SASCanada, sascommunity.org

One Comment

  1. Art Tabachnek Arthur Tabachneck
    Posted April 30, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Chris, Just wanted to point out one thing that might confuse people when the look at the graphs included in the SAS-L counts powerpoint. The Gregorian folk have it all wrong as, according to listserv logic, there are really 59 weeks in every year except, of course during leap years, when there are 60. Listserv weeks begin on the first of every month and last for 7 days or the end of the month .. whichever comes sooner.

    Thanks to both you and Waynette for doing such a great job on the blog!

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