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st: simple questions [was: RE: simple data input question- expanding macros]


From   "Nick Cox" <n.j.cox@durham.ac.uk>
To   <statalist@hsphsun2.harvard.edu>
Subject   st: simple questions [was: RE: simple data input question- expanding macros]
Date   Fri, 15 Aug 2008 17:43:23 +0100

"pgscooter" wrote 

"I apologize for such a simple question"

and asked 

"is there any good forum online that might be better for beginner
questions?"

I'll take these in reverse order. 

The short answer to the second question appears to be No. If there are
other lists devoted largely or completely to Stata questions, please let
us know, so that we can publicise them in the FAQ. 

Occasionally, an urban myth surfaces about another such list being about
to be set up. On enquiry, no one ever seems to have more definite
information. Many people would be happy with a Statalist that carried
less traffic, particularly if that somehow meant that questions not
interesting to them went elsewhere. It is difficult to see how that
could happen without a lot of work on somebody's part. (I doubt that web
forum vs email list is the issue here either.) 

The key problems about a beginners' list include: Who would set it up?
Who would answer the questions? What about cross-posting? Also, who
quite is a beginner? I don't think that any Stata "expert" is not also a
complete ignoramus on large chunks of Stata, nor is anybody claiming
otherwise. Also, what is a simple question? The poster here thought they
had a simple question, but I think it's fair from simple. (I'll answer
separately.) 

I don't have easy answers, nor do I say it's impossible, but no
beginners' list is in sight. What I think is clear-cut is that nobody
active in running or participating in Statalist is (audibly) committed
to Statalist's exclusivity. 

Now on "I apologize for such a simple question": 

Please don't do that. If the question is too elementary or trivial to
ask, don't post it. If not, you need not apologise. If you call it the
wrong way, the world will not end for you. 

It is true that Statalist is a little ambiguous about beginners'
questions. The FAQ says "Beginners' questions are usually indulged",
which many might think is not a very warm welcome. But that is a matter
of practicality, not principle. The worry is that without some signal of
the kind, the list could easily be swamped by How do I a regression in
Stata?, or Which is better: mean or median? Statalist doesn't exist to
answer questions that people should be able to find out themselves with
very little work, which is not to deny that anybody can overlook what is
staring them in the face from time to time. Moreover, to use the kind of
argument Marcello Pagano is fond of, it is really in people's own
interests to learn how to help themselves (that should be: -help-
themselves). 

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



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