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RE: st: Stata vs SPSS


From   "Nick Cox" <n.j.cox@durham.ac.uk>
To   <statalist@hsphsun2.harvard.edu>
Subject   RE: st: Stata vs SPSS
Date   Mon, 16 Oct 2006 13:49:18 +0100

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

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-statalist@hsphsun2.harvard.edu
> [mailto:owner-statalist@hsphsun2.harvard.edu]On Behalf Of 
> Clive Nicholas
> Sent: 15 October 2006 20:23
> To: statalist@hsphsun2.harvard.edu
> Subject: RE: st: Stata vs SPSS
> 
> 
> Nick Cox replied:
> 
> > Well, yes and no in my view. One general reason behind
> > many of the more positive comments in this thread is
> > that StataCorp (and its predecessors) have maintained
> > a very steady market focus on researchers and their
> > needs and desires.
> >
> > Conversely, many a statistical program has lost its
> > way to a greater or lesser extent -- as far as researchers
> > are concerned -- insofar as it has gone for a wider
> > business market. I really am not clear that you
> > can go for both without major loss.
> >
> > Similarly, various people have commented that for many
> > purposes they need to switch to other software (e.g.
> > MS Excel) for other things. This really doesn't sound
> > a source of surprise! I suppose it is flattering that
> > some Stata users seem to want to do everything in a
> > project in Stata.
> >
> > I am often reminded in these discussions of Dennis
> > Ritchie's semi-apocryphal comments when he was repeatedly
> > asked why C -- famously lean and mean, like Stata in its
> > youth -- didn't include this feature or that feature:
> > "If you want PL/1, you know where to find it." PL/1
> > was, by comparison, a relative behemoth, but where
> > is it now?
> 
> Difficult to dissent from any of this (especially as I've 
> never heard of
> PL/1 before!). Let me come back and add some more comments.
> 
> On balance, I think you're right that StataCorp shouldn't be in the
> business of prostituting itself at the altar of the private sector. If
> commerce and industry can't see why Stata would be of benefit to them,
> then frankly that's their lookout (but it may have 
> consequences for those
> statistically-minded individuals who are looking for jobs in 
> the private
> sector but may have to settle working with packages they know to be
> inferior for one reason or another). I suspect Stata's lack of 'market
> penetration', for the want of a better experession, isn't just down to
> StataCorp's retience about getting involved in a fight it 
> senses it can't
> ultimately 'win', but also because
> 
> (a) businesses aren't fully aware of the alternatives to SPSS 
> (and MS Excel)
>     and that some of them might be better; and
> (b) businesses can't be bothered to look for any other 
> alternatives, due
>     more to complacency than anything else.
> 
> On this, I know whereof I speak. I remember having a casual webroom
> conversation with a lady who told me that she worked as a 
> market analyst
> in the City of London (and probably still does). It went 
> something like
> this:
> 
> Me:  "Oh really? So you try and predict market movements, do you?"
> Her: "Yup."
> Me:  "Wow! So tell me; do you use time-series methods for prediction?"
> Her: "Er, nooooo."
> Me:  "Um, OK. So what do you use, then?"
> Her: "Nothing other than our professional intuition. We stick 
> a finger in
>       our mouth, take it out, hold it up in the air, and 
> judge which way the
>       wind's blowing."
> Me:  "Right. Don't you think you should be using something more, um,
>       scientific, maybe?"
> Her: "No. Why should we when this works just as well? We've 
> had lots of
>       young, 'wet-behind-the-ears' kids come to us trying to 
> teach us all
>       this crap before, and we soon sent them packing."
> 
> The discourse went downhill from there. With attitudes like this, no
> package that aims to be more comprehensive than MS Excel can 
> hope to take
> a slice of the commerical cake, as it were, either here in the UK or
> elsewhere.
> 
> Of course, this isn't the only problem that Stata faces, 
> because it also
> faces what one might call 'barriers to entry' those parts of 
> the private
> sector that are already accustomed to using statistical 
> packages as part
> of their work, notably market research. In this sector, SPSS have been
> rolling out a specially-tailored package called SPSS-MR for a 
> number of
> years now, and these companies - who normally do little more than
> crosstabulations, pie charts and maybe a bit of cluster 
> analysis - have
> snapped them up by the shedload. As Richard Williams rightly 
> says, if all
> you're going to use a stat-package for is counting tallies, 
> run bar charts
> and maybe the odd bit of OLS, then why should StataCorp 
> engage in a battle
> for business that it may lose (in wasted dollars?) in the long run?
> 
> Some may see this view as a defeatist, but one has to look at it from
> their point of view.
> 
> CLIVE NICHOLAS        |t: 0(044)7903 397793
> Politics              |e: clive.nicholas@ncl.ac.uk
> Newcastle University  |http://www.ncl.ac.uk/geps
> 
> Whereever you go and whatever you do, just remember this. No 
> matter how
> many like you, admire you, love you or adore you, the number of people
> turning up to your funeral will be largely determined by local weather
> conditions.
> 
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