Have you ever visited a city for the first time and, instead of relying maps to plan your journey, you simply plug your destinations into a GPS device and mindlessly follow the navigation directions? You've just cheated yourself out of a learning opportunity, because planning the journey and using your brain to navigate (and perhaps even getting lost) can serve an important role in growing your local knowledge.
In "How good software makes us stupid", the author cites the example of the London Cab. Will "sat-nav" (satellite navigation devices) kill the local knowledge that distinguishes a London cabbie from any shmoe who can operate a right-hand-drive automobile?
I was a passenger for the first time in a London Cab last June, and I saw wanna-be drivers on motorbikes who were boning up on The Knowledge. The Knowledge is a rigorous training program that all taxi drivers in London must endure and pass, proving that they can traverse from any Point A to any Point B within the city and provide the best possible service for their fares.
Ever since SAS Enterprise Guide has been introduced, there has been a tension between "point-and-click" SAS users and the master SAS programmers. Using SAS Enterprise Guide, you can drive a lot of SAS queries, reporting, and analytics without writing a lick of SAS code. You arrive at your destination safe and sound (you have your results), but what have you learned along the way?
I've talked to teachers who teach SAS programming in high school (yes, high school!). They haven't allowed their students to use SAS Enterprise Guide in class. Why? Because it would make it too easy to complete their homework assignments. (On the other hand, I've taught programming classes in the past, and I know this: a good teacher knows when a student has had help coming up with the solution.)
I once had a conversation with a SAS user who asserted that SAS was trying to "kill the SAS programmer" by promoting "codeless" paths through user interfaces such as SAS Enterprise Guide and SAS Add-In for Microsoft Office. Of course, that's an absurd notion. SAS programmers use their advanced skills to create wonderful content and to solve difficult business problems. The more that organizations rely on that content and on those solutions, the better it is for SAS, right?
It's easy to see that we love SAS programmers when you look at the new features in SAS Enterprise Guide 4.3. I believe that this will provide the biggest boost for programmers since we released the syntax-coloring "enhanced editor" a decade ago. The 4.3 release offers syntax suggestions and autocompletion, integrated syntax reference help, function disambiguation (what's the difference between SUBSTR and SUBSTR?), the program tidy feature, SAS program analysis, and more.
We've taken a big step on our journey towards the premier SAS programming environment. But we have not yet arrived at our destination, so we've already got new programmer-friendly features under development for the next release. We use your suggestions to help us to navigate, so please, keep them coming.