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RE: st: RE: list in stata8


From   "Nick Cox" <n.j.cox@durham.ac.uk>
To   <statalist@hsphsun2.harvard.edu>
Subject   RE: st: RE: list in stata8
Date   Wed, 26 Feb 2003 15:28:22 -0000

FEIVESON, ALAN
> 
> As I suggested previously - I am saddened to see that Stata 
> is being driven
> more and more towards accommodating  cosmetics rather than 
> statistics. I
> assume this is a market-driven neccessity and done with 
> reluctance by Stata Corp.

I don't think this interpretation is supported 
by the evidence. 

Stata Corp have to sell Stata: they are a 
commercial enterprise and must respect the market. 
Also, development of Stata depends on sales of 
Stata. That's self-evident. Beyond that, the 
market does include _us_ and we too have a say. 

For example, the strength of support for 
the old -list- may prompt Stata Corp 
to bring it back under version control. 
I guess that they could do it in some way 
or another -- possibly under a new name -- 
and they could do it quickly if they were 
convinced that enough people still wanted it. 

More generally, what's most obvious in Stata 8
and how far is it cosmetics, not statistics? 

1. Graphics
===========

Graphics does involve cosmetics, certainly. 
But good graphics is statistically honest, 
scientifically helpful and aesthetically 
attractive, as Tukey, Tufte, Cleveland and others
have been reminding us for many years.  

The old graphics was long, long overdue for an 
overhaul, not least because much of it was limited, 
inflexible and behind the state of the art.
Let's not forget that for the last few years 
"Where's the new graphics?" was an intermittent 
thread on Statalist -- and a predictable staple 
at users' meetings. Within a generally friendly 
and good-natured user community, and one well 
disposed towards Stata Corp, it was 
a sore point for many. 

Now that it's here, I'll say that a lot of 
what is new does help drive data analysis -- 
statistics in the best sense. And the 
presentational side is important. I have 
been showing Stata 8 to colleagues who 
are good scientists, who don't use Stata 
much, and their attitude to the graphics 
is typically "I would like to be able to 
produce graphs like that for my papers 
and talks". This is the way that, I 
guess, most of us think about graphics: 
"That's nice" is the way that we respond 
to a graph that is helpful and attractive. 

2. GUI
======

The command language is a sticking point 
for many, especially beginners and those 
who only use Stata occasionally. And the 
command language for the new graphics 
is at first sight -- and even at second 
sight -- moderately scary even for people 
who like command languages. As Marcello 
Pagano said, the GUI is going to be 
good for those groups wary of Stata. 
In addition, it is a very good way of 
learning the new graphics. In many 
cases, people will switch increasingly 
to using the command language once 
they learn it from examples. The GUI isn't 
cosmetics: it is about making use of Stata 
easier and more effective. I didn't ask 
for it, but many users will find it helpful. 

Nick 
n.j.cox@durham.ac.uk 
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