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Re: st: RE: Statalist FAQ revised


From   n j cox <n.j.cox@durham.ac.uk>
To   statalist@hsphsun2.harvard.edu
Subject   Re: st: RE: Statalist FAQ revised
Date   Tue, 15 Apr 2008 21:30:28 +0100

Good question.

I'd rather not personalise this in terms of what I, Nick Cox, prefer. The FAQ is intended to codify a consensus about what is good practice. At one extreme, the FAQ lays down some indisputable facts (e.g. you can't post unless you have subscribed); at another extreme, we are in essence just making suggestions -- and goodness knows, people are going to ignore those suggestions when they forget or don't agree or think them inappropriate, and often quite rightly.

You do put your finger on a small dilemma. Lots of little thank you messages could clog up the list and are likely to be even less interesting than the original question to many readers. (But then Statalist is like a newspaper: however much you respect the paper, almost all of it is just not interesting or useful.) For this reason, "Thanks in advance" is often recommended -- and used -- as a way to signal impending gratitude once and for all in a thread. There are several objections to that, perhaps the most important of which is that it may encourage some posters to think they have discharged their responsibilities and can just sit back and wait for the answers.

However, it does seem to me -- and from many on-list and off-list discussions over the years I know I am not alone -- that one of the most frustrating things about this list can be poor closure of threads -- or even a failure to answer secondary questions. Everyone's time was wasted by any question that went nowhere.

More positively, one of the best things about the list is when
someone says, "Solution X works for me. Solution Y looks good too, and it should be a useful thing to remember. Thanks to Tom, Ricardo and Harriet for their suggestions.", or whatever.

That kind of response to me mixes informativeness and courtesy in good measure and is what I would like to encourage.

Sometimes of course, a thread is closed definitively by an answer: "You left out a comma", or whatever. In that kind of case I won't disagree that a message to the effect that someone is grateful for that correction is dispensable. Sometimes, gratitude can just be assumed.

Further, separate "Thank you"s are not a good idea. Thank everyone at once.

In general, nothing in the FAQ should be incompatible with general good sense.

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

Dupont, William

Nick

I did have one question about private responses. If I post a question
on Statalist and someone gives me a helpful answer should I thank her
publicly by posting my thanks on the list or privately by sending a
personal email. I could understand that thousands of Statalisters might
not want to read my thank you note. On the other hand some people who
give valuable help might like to be publicly thanked.

Your "Don't walk away" bullet appears to suggest that you prefer public
thanks. Is this correct?

Bill Dupont

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-statalist@hsphsun2.harvard.edu
[mailto:owner-statalist@hsphsun2.harvard.edu] On Behalf Of Nick Cox
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2008 10:20 AM
To: statalist@hsphsun2.harvard.edu
Subject: st: Statalist FAQ revised

The Statalist FAQ has been revised. A URL, as always, is given in the
footer added by Majordomo to postings.

At first sight it probably won't look much different, but we have made
numerous minor and a few major changes to the presentation.

Some rather dated material has gone. We no longer spell out (e.g.) how
certain features are not available to Stata 6 or Stata 7 users.
Otherwise
the most substantial changes arise directly or indirectly from various
threads on the list itself, particularly some discussions last
year on what did and did not promote good practice.

The FAQ is still longer than you, an individual reader, will (probably)
want to read. Sorry about that, but it's the union of what many
individual readers (should) want to know. Long experience indicates that
what is obvious or familiar to many is far from that to many others.

Either way, please recall that you are asked to read through the FAQ
before posting.

A brief executive summary follows my signature.

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

------------------------------------------------
Please...

Before posting, consider other ways of finding information [section 1].

Make the subject line informative [section 2.2].

Do not post formatted messages or attachments: send ASCII or plain text
[section 2.2].

Note that there are archives which can be searched [section 2.8].

Write clear questions [section 3.2].

Say exactly what you typed and exactly what Stata typed (or did) in
response. N.B. exactly! [section 3.3]

Specify if you are using an out-of-date version of Stata [section 3.3].

Say where command(s) you are using that are not part of official Stata
come from [section 3.3]

Always recall that members come from many different sciences [section
3.4]

Give precise literature references [section 3.4].

Specify the platform you are using if your question is specific to that
platform [section 3.4]

Explain details that may make sense only in your own corner of the world
[section 3.4]

Edit previous postings [section 3.4]

Start new threads with fresh postings, not replies [section 3.4].

Don't walk away from the thread you started [section 3.4].

Think twice about reposting a question [section 4].

Think twice about sending private emails to those active on Statalist
[section 5].

Write "Stata", not "STATA" [section 8.2].
-----------------------------------------------------

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