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Re: st: PDF Stata 8 manuals (and other issues of concern of graduatestudents)


From   SamL <saml@demog.berkeley.edu>
To   statalist@hsphsun2.harvard.edu
Subject   Re: st: PDF Stata 8 manuals (and other issues of concern of graduatestudents)
Date   Fri, 18 Jul 2003 11:01:09 -0700 (PDT)

Renzo,

you raise some very insightful points.  I want to respond, respectfully,
to only one.  However, this response is not just to your posting, but to
several postings that have remarked about the manuals being expensive. My
response may be more applicable to graduate students than to others, as
you'll see below (I hope).

I don't always think about things this way, but perhaps this will make
paying the cost of the manuals easier for some people.  In short, just a
thought: Why not think of these purchases as investments? Assume the
manuals cost "x".  That is the initial outlay.  With that investment one
acquires capital, which, by combining it with the software, one's data,
and using it, one can develop two things--1)a set of statistical
results one might write up and 2)skills one can use in the future.

The set of statistical results is a product, and will have a limited time
of relevance.  Publishing that product may help one obtain a job, obtain a
promotion, or something like that, and thus could be monetized (i.e., one
could calculate the direct monetary return on the investment in the
manuals).  But, the skills are capital themselves (human capital) and thus
can produce an income stream.  It is likely that this income stream will
dwarf the direct return on (and costs of) the manuals very quickly.

It is kind of a truism that initial outlays for things that produce an
income stream might be pricey (to the person making the outlay at the
time).  But, contrast that with the income stream one would have without
the outlay (no stats work or, horrors, programming everything oneself) or
with a less advantageous outlay (i.e., trying to do all the bells and
whistles things one can do with stata with some other package, especially
when one considers all the benefits one has by using software that
hundreds of other people write modules for, and so on, not to mention the
rejected submissions to journals one would accumulate were one unable to
answer "the "criticism by using the model that no one has programmed in
SPSS or SAS yet but the editor wants to see). Seen in this way, the
initial outlay is not very much at all.  We are talking about not x but,
instead (x/all the stuff one will be able to do over the course of one's
use of the software)! :-)

Science is expensive.  Unlike grad students in astronomy who may need
(their advisor) to buy time (for them) at a radio telescope, or grad
students in physics who may need (their advisor) to buy time (for them) at
a particle accelerator, and all the power issues such relations may
produce, all many of us need is just access to a software package and its
manuals, which can be obtained for less than $1000, but probably more like
$500.  Contrasting the scheme of power in the academy and the freedom such
an outlay provides (in a world awash in free social science data), all I
can say is WOW, we've good it GOOOOOOOD!  Why are we complaining about
this?

Just a thought.  I know schooling is expensive, and shows no signs of
falling in price.  But, the manual, like schooling, *is* an investment.
And, the advantage of having the manual (and schooling) is way way way
more than anything stata (or schools) could charge and stay in business.
So, lower prices might be fine, but just be happy stata (and schools)
don't ask for an explicit percentage of the return on the investment.  
Now that WOULD be expensive.  :)

Respectfully,

Sam



On Fri, 18 Jul 2003 renzo.comolli@yale.edu wrote:

> Dear Statalist,
> 
> I would like to propose the following comments to Bill Gould (of 
> StataCorp) from a graduate student perspective
> >>3.  We are enamored of our current pricing/business model.  More
> >>truthfully, we have stumbled on a model that works both for us
> >>and for our users and we are nervous about changing it too much.
> I really like the GradPlan pricing. Although I think it is somewhat 
> more expensive now than the GradPlan I paid for in November I think it 
> is still quite reasonably priced for the Intercooled. The SE is quite 
> pricy, but to stay on the topics of the manuals.
> The manuals offered through the GradPlan are extremely expensive (is 
> the full documentation set discounted at all?). 
> In total my institution has 2 copies of the manual accessible to all 
> students but they are basically unborrowable. Some grad students can 
> make it do with the help, but others are too advanced or just need more 
> explanation to achieve their goals. 
> I certainly did not even think about buying the manuals at first, but 
> now I would buy them for sure if I could have the full documentation 
> set for (let's say) $75. I don't know, but I hope Stata could still 
> more than cover its variable costs; I am certainly not suggesting Stata 
> becomes a charity.
> 
> >>That leads us to thinking about expanding the contents of the SMCL on-
> >>line help.  The idea is to include all the content of the manuals so 
> >>as long that content is computer related, deleting the statistical 
> >>description, advice, etc.  We would also include examples, something 
> >>we can very elegantly do in SMCL.
> That would be great for two reasons! 
> 1. It would save me many, many trips to the library. 
> 2. For long time I mistakenly worked under the assumption that "if it 
> was not in the help, it simply did not exist". Completely wrong, but I 
> guess I was not the only one.
> 
> A last concern for (at least some) graduate students is updates and add 
> ons. This is not manual related.
> I don't know what stata can do about it, but administrators make the 
> Stata folder and the ado folder non user-writable and it looks like 
> there is no way of convincing them to type -update all- -update swap- 
> with the result that we are still using the version out of the CD.
> 
> I just found out that it is possible to add ado paths. I'll look into 
> this more, but I truly hope it is possible to download ado files to the 
> added path.
> 
> Personally, I work from home with my own copy, but it is very 
> frustrating not to be able to reproduce my results at the department.
> 
> Best Regards,
> Renzo Comolli
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