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st: A wish list for Statalist
It has been over a year since Statalist was taken off the Yahoo Group
listings. My delivery of Statalist Digest has been erratic, sometimes
missing up to 90% of the postings. Judging by the recent drop in postings,
other people might be experiencing similar problems.
Reading through the Digest is not as fun as it used to be. Too much to go
through before getting to the point.
Here is my personal wish list for Statlist.
1. Make HTML as the default
With free online accounts, most people should be able to access HTML. We
really should move on and make do without the HTML gibberish and the many
reminders not to use it.
2. Updated forum format
There are "canned" solutions for setting up a web-based forum. These forums
are easy to use, easy on the eyes, and easy to understand. I really would
like to see Statalist upgraded into one of these web-based format for forums
(HTML-based, mind you). If you don't know what I am talking about, see these
With the updated format, the administrator could, for example, set up
several sub-topics, such as installation, programming, data cleaning,
estimation and inference, and advanced statistics. If someone wants to see
everything in one place, as is currently the case, you should set up such a
sub-topic (except it shows everything).
In these forums, the newest postings appeas at the top and still keep the
The administator can also place the existing guide to Statalist in the form
of a "sticky" at the very top of the forum, where it might actually be read
by someone. These forums usually have a few designated moderators
(volunteers) who can occasionally clean up threads, fix errors, discourage
Such set ups are much kinder to the new users who have in the past tended to
get left behind. The new users usually have problems with data cleaning, so
that's where they should be found within the forums, away from those who
might not be well disposed towards that sort of thing and spare us the
It is also much easier to post on these types of forums without having to go
through email accounts, fixing the subject heading (something I usually
forget), and cross your (my) fingers that no mistake was made because I
can't come back and fix it.
As Statalist currently exists, the posters cannot even change their own
thread titles and it just doesn't look good. Statalist currently works more
like a BB (bulletin board) where everyone is shouting to everyone else. It's
messy, too noisy. Archiving of every errors and typos is unsightly. Valuable
information is in there, but not in a useful format. I have hundreds of old
Statalist Digests sitting in my email account untouched and unread, I am
going to erase them soon.
The HTML-based forums can usually accomodate anonymized accounts, which
minimizes abuse. I currently get much more spams when I post on Statalist.
3. The Stata Corp should be "in" or "out"
Statalist has been a valuable resource for the Stata Corp. Getting people to
donate their own time and effort towards helping other users what more can a
company ask for. As it has been previously pointed out, having Statalist
hosted on the Stata Corp website presents a serious conflict of interest.
People are less likely to volunteer information when it appears (as
sometimes is the case) it is something the Stata Corps should have handled
by itself. It also presents a dilution of responsibility because the line of
responsibiliy isn't clear.
I personally would like to see the Stata Corp to either be actively involved
in the management of Statalist, including setting up a user-friendly forum
mentioned above, or completely be disengaged from Statalist by having it
hosted on somewhere else. It should be in or out, without giving a murky
signal that it may come to the rescue should something go wrong. If the
Stata Corp chooses to stay out, there's always a space somewhere, especially
among the academic domains. The bandwidth requirement for Statalist
shouldn't be too big.
Of course, Statalist has been maintained in the past by a number of generous
people. There are good reasons for doing it this way or that way. I
personally would prefer to see something less demanding, a little more
organized, and a bit more egalitarian. I suppose someone could go set it up,
but it would be nice if Statalist did all that.