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What follows is just my own view, although I've got reasons
to suppose that it is at least partially shared by others 
who are in a similar boat. So "I" below means what it says, but
be warned that others may agree. 

There can be many reasons to email someone directly -- most obviously
if you are a friend or if there is a question specifically 
about a program I have written -- but emailing someone on the grounds 
that they appear active and knowledgeable about Stata is a tactic with low
probability of getting precisely what you want and a high
probability of wasting the time of both parties. 

1. Often I cannot help, as I don't understand the question, I 
don't know the answer, or I just don't have the time. In 
particular, I don't offer unpaid private consultancy. 
 
2. I support Statalist. Much of the benefit of Statalist is 
that any answer to a question might well interest other people. 
Also, nobody is obliged to answer anything. If you send mail to 
me, you oblige me to answer, or to feel rude if I ignore your 
mail. I would rather you didn't do that. 

3. Oftentimes the implication, or even the justification, is 
that the question is too elementary or trivial or embarrassing
to post to Statalist. This is almost always the wrong way 
to think. If it really is elementary or trivial, then why 
not work it out yourself, or why do you think I am interested 
in answering it? Also, no one should worry too much about 
embarrassment. Even the gurus on Statalist spend a large 
fraction of their time writing buggy programs and then claiming
the credit for fixing them. They are the people who should
feel embarrassed.... At worst, Statalist can get a bit nippy
if you show few signs of wanting to help yourself or even 
of trying to explain the question clearly, but no one 
will call you really bad names. 

4. Say you started a thread and then you take it private, perhaps
on the grounds that the matter may be getting tedious for
others. Well, perhaps so, but they can always Delete your post, 
just like almost all others, and you deprive anybody else
interested of the upshot of the thread. 

5. Time spent posting to Statalist is time not available for doing 
the other things in my life. So, the guess that Stata-active people
have yet more time available for private support really is
the wrong way round. 
  
Nick 
n.j.cox@durham.ac.uk 

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