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st: RE: Problem areas


From   Jhilbe@aol.com
To   statalist@hsphsun2.harvard.edu
Subject   st: RE: Problem areas
Date   Fri, 26 Aug 2005 15:05:37 EDT

I apologize to any Statalist reader who may have  thought that I plan to send 
any "dirt" I hear about to Stata's competitors.  Quite to the contrary, I 
suppose that I am one of the most vocal advocates of  Stata to the general 
statistical community. I use Stata almost exclusively to  demonstrate statistical 
topics that I write about in books, articles, and  courses. I also frequently 
refer to its many capabilities in my Section Editor's  Notes column for The 
American Statistician (TAS). 

During the 8 years  that I have been software reviews editor for TAS, we have 
not published a  separate review of Stata. We've had many reviews in which 
Stata has been  compared with other packages on some type of capability; e.g. 
GLM, GEE, survey  stats, exact statistics, and so forth. But Stata has never 
been reviewed as a  standalone package. So I'm taking on the task of writing such 
a review. I know  the good points - and they are many. But I do not
intend for the review to  simply be an advertisement for Stata - it would 
have little worth, and would  undermmine my credibility. 

I know of some capabilities that I'd like to  see added to Stata, and I'm 
aware of a few little problem areas. But I may have  missed something. If there 
are some statistical issues that may need to be  addressed, I'd like to point 
them out. As it is, I so far have some 19  typewritten pages listing 
capabilities -- with examples of its power,  comprehensiveness, and excellent support. I 
have two paragraphs discussing of a  couple of items that are not part of 
"official" Stata, but that are nevertheless  available through user written 
programs. There are also two other statistical  capabilities that are not yet in 
Stata that I mention. As it is, few packages  have either of them. 

There may be other points that I discuss, but the  end result is that Stata 
is a superb package that is continually providing users  with better 
statistical, programming, graphic, and data management tools. It's  support system is 
second to none.  

==========
As I mentioned, no  one package can do everything. If it could, it would 
likely be too unwieldy to  use. But Stata Corp is making the attempt to provide 
its users with the tools  required to address their specific needs. There is 
absolutely no question about  its desire to respond to the desires of its users 
-- and has continually made  new versions and incremental 
enhancements available to its user base. Just  think about some of the 
positive features of being a Stata user:

1. Free  tech support
2. Ability to correspond to other users and to Stata staff via  the StataList
3. Can take very reasonably priced web-based courses on  programming, etc
4. Can now read full fledged textbooks specifically devoted  to explaining 
some aspect of statistics, including  graphics, data management, and 
ML programming.  Stata Press books provide Stata users with excellent  
support. Take a look at Sophia Rabe-Hesketh's newly  released book on 
"Multilevel and Longitudinal  Modeling Using Stata". It is one of the 
best texts  I've ever read on the topic. Truly excellent. A host of  other
books are being prepared. 
5. Annual Stata  Users conferences in North America, Europe, and 
Australia/NZ. 
6. A  relatively easy-to-learn programming language which can be used to  
program nearly any statistical procedure conceivable. Stata's  ML and matrix
(Mata) capabilities are superior. I know of no  other higher level 
statistical 
progamming language easier to  use, or with the comprehensiveness of scope.  
7. A refereed  professional journal (Stata Journal) that provides excellent 
support  
on using Stata. Previously, beginning in 1991, Stata sponsored  the STB that 
provided users with a number of useful programs,  and provided overall 
support.
Like the STB, users are encouraged  to contribute articles and programs to 
the SJ.
8. Web-based access and links  to other sites --  excellent web support. For 
example, 
the  UCLA support site provides programs and tutorials on using Stata - for  
free.
9. And many other features...

Well, enough for now. I encourage  you to read the review if interested. It 
is to 
be published in the November  issue of The American Statistician. 

=========
As a side comment:  there were several comments that I received about 
capabilities that 
were  lacking. Well, in some cases Stata did have the procedures. I pointed 
them out.  
I was also able to show another reader how to program in Stata in order to  
obtain their  
desired statistical tool. And I also intend to send the  (short) list of 
desired enhancements to Bill Gould for his consideration.  

Joe Hilbe


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