SAS Global Forum 2014, included a meetup of SAS users who are active in various online communities. During the meetup I was struck by the tremendous opportunities that these communities provide. All year long, the online communities demonstrate the conference theme: "the potential of one, the power of all." This article highlights these SAS communities. As you read, consider whether participating in these communities might help you become better in your job as a SAS programmer.
SAS Support Communities
The biggest and most active online community is also my favorite: the SAS Support Communities. At the Support Communities, you can ask questions about using SAS software or share your knowledge and experience by answering someone else's question.
The graph at the left (click to enlarge) shows recent activity in the SAS Support Communities. The number of posts in 2013 is plotted against the 2012 traffic on a log10 scale for various subcommunities. Each subcommunity serves a specific industry or SAS product. You can see that some subcommunities, such as the one that discusses SAS Macro and DATA step issues, had 10,000 or more posts in 2013. Other communities had less traffic. For example the SAS/IML Community had
500 posts, which represents a 67% increase over the 2012 traffic. Overall, there were more than 36,000 posts in the support communities during 2013.
Anyone can read the threads in the SAS Support Community, but you need to register in order to post a question or an answer.
LinkedIn, Wiki, and Mailing Lists
Although the SAS Support Communities are administered by SAS staff, other online communities exist through the efforts of SAS users. For example:
LinkedIn groups: There are dozens of SAS-related groups on LinkedIn, but one of the best is the SAS Professionals Forum, which is a moderated group that serves about 24,000 SAS professionals. If you use LinkedIn,
consider joining this group where you can discuss relevant issues including career advancement.
SASCommunity.org is a Wiki about all things related to SAS software. It has a very popular "Tip of the Day" and provides a site where SAS programmers can store and describe programs, macros, and code snippets. The conference chair, Marje Fecht, recently wrote a nice description of the site's content. A new feature is that you can create a personal Web page that lists all of your SAS-related papers and presentations. If you want an easy way to link to your accomplishments, consider creating a personal page on sasCommunity.org.
Long before Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Groups, and other modern social networks, there were list
server, which are electronic mailing lists. The SAS-L list server
continues to process 10,000 posts in a year, many of them regarding innovative
ways to use the DATA step or PROC SQL to solve real-world problems.
As is appropriate for software that is used around the world, several countries have their own professional networks:
The SAS Canada Community supports almost 1,200 SAS professionals with announcements, discussions, blogs, and more. The community is active in Canadian regional SAS user group meetings.
A similar community in the UK is SASProfessionals.net, which boasts more than 10,000 members. In addition to discussions and blogs, the community organizes face-to-face conferences such as the SAS Professionals Convention 2014. I heard that they are sponsoring a competition for data scientists in the near future! I look forward to hearing more about that activity.
Honoring community members
Some communities reward participants with points or badges throughout the year. Each year at SAS Global Forum, the SAS-L community recognizes people who contributed to the community in the previous year through the quality and
quantity of their posts. This year the "rookie-of-the-year award" went to Subin Alex, and two longtime contributors were elected to the "SAS-L Hall of Fame": Joe
Matise and Nat Wooding (pictured at left).
In the picture (contributed by Michael Raithel), Nat is holding a copy of the proceedings of SAS.ONE, the very first SAS user's group conference. This copy was autographed by SAS founders Jim Goodnight and John Sall, as well as by Phil Miller, a long-time SAS user who attended every early conference and was conference chair of SUGI '83. That book—and in fact a complete set of printed proceedings from SUGI and SAS Global Forum!—were auctioned off for charity at the meetup. Donations and the auction raised more than $400 for the Children's Book Drive, which benefits needy children in the DC area.
If you want your own piece of history, start saving your pennies. Rumor has it that SAS-L community is making plans to auction another complete set of
proceeding at SAS Global Forum 2015 in Dallas.
What are you waiting for?
Some people think of programming as a solitary activity. It doesn't have to be. Many programmers today use online communities to improve their skills, to get
assistance, and to make friends with like-minded colleagues across the globe. Are you using a SAS community? If not, why not start today?
Rick Wicklin, PhD, is a distinguished researcher in computational statistics at SAS and is a principal developer of SAS/IML software. His areas of expertise include computational statistics, simulation, statistical graphics, and modern methods in statistical data analysis. Rick is author of the books Statistical Programming with SAS/IML Software and Simulating Data with SAS.