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Re: st: A gentler introduction to Statalist and Seven Deadly Sins


From   Phil Schumm <pschumm@uchicago.edu>
To   statalist@hsphsun2.harvard.edu
Subject   Re: st: A gentler introduction to Statalist and Seven Deadly Sins
Date   Sat, 4 Aug 2007 09:03:42 -0500

On Jul 31, 2007, at 6:42 PM, Nick Cox wrote:
I agree with Roy that imputation of motive is tricky territory, but I suggest it's better to guess at an attempt at banter rather than intention to impugn or insult.

I'm just catching up on a couple weeks' worth of email, and was mildly amused by this thread. For those who may not realize it, Statalist is far gentler than many other lists out there. On many lists (and I'm talking about other technical lists used by serious people), inappropriate questions are either met with a public scolding or are simply ignored. The former is pretty effective against repeat offenders, at the risk of scaring off a few people who might be capable of redeeming themselves. Neither, however, gets the original poster any closer to having her or his question answered. By contrast, the advice given on Statalist -- even if it is to re-ask your question in a more appropriate fashion -- nearly *always* gets the original poster closer to having her or his question answered. And after all, isn't that the objective?

Someone mentioned something about cultural differences, and I think that's an important factor here. In many corners of cyberspace, lists are about one thing: getting work done. They are not about making friends, or making people feel good. I'm not necessarily advocating such an approach, but those who recognize and understand it will have a much happier life online. IOW, it is always dangerous to read a response for anything other than its technical content, unless you know the person personally or unless the response explicitly solicits some form of emotive exchange. If not, be grateful when you get a helpful response, but don't take any umbrage if you do not. A good rule to live by.

Finally, the Statalist FAQ is an excellent document, and we should consider ourselves fortunate to have it (most lists don't have such a document). I'm not arguing it can't be improved, that's not my point. However, please keep in mind that although many newcomers take the time to read this, there will always be people who don't. And revisions to the FAQ won't help this problem. For those individuals, a one-line response along the lines of "Read the FAQ and repost your question accordingly" is, IMHO, completely warranted. After all, these people are asking for free help (often from people of such high caliber that they couldn't afford their time if they had too pay for it).


-- Phil

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