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Re: st: one last question [Re: list in Stata 8]

From   Buzz Burhans <>
Subject   Re: st: one last question [Re: list in Stata 8]
Date   Wed, 26 Feb 2003 15:22:43 -0500

IAt 12:56 PM 2/26/03 -0600, you wrote:
Phil, Buzz, Nick and others:

OK - OK - I respectfully admit I am in a small minority (of one?).  I just
have one last question, then I'll be quiet about this topic:

What percent of Stata Corp.'s resources were spent on the development of
GUI, graphics, windowing, etc. for STata 8, as compared with the develpment
of improved statistical modelling, estimation, etc.  routines? Same question
regarding  SMCL in Stata 7.

Al Feiveson

I have no clue on this.

More importantly, it doesn't matter to me.

It doesn't matter because they deliver good value for my upgrade dollar, and I am confident that I have good tools, and Stata is one of my "good tools". I spend some time (not enough) working in my woodshop, and I have spent a lot of time working with farmers who buy and use all manner of equipment. These experiences over the years have taught me that one of the keys to success in many endeavors is having the right good tools. Tools make a difference. I recently bought a smoothing plane and paid the long dollar for it, could have gotten a much cheaper one. If you could come into my shop, you would see that it makes a huge difference in the quality of my work. I suppose I could call up the company that makes them and complain that if they had used iron instead of brass on the adjusting screw it would still work as well and would be cheaper...but that would be ridiculous. They know what makes a good plane, and guess what... their plane works well in my hands, even though I am not a professional woodworker. And some of the specific features I'll never appreciate, because I am not a professional cabinetmaker...but I know that the quality of that tool makes a difference in my work. So to it is with the quality of my computing tools. I use Stata 8 because I have come to appreciate that good tools make a difference, and Stata 8 is a good tool. I wouldn't buy that smoothing plane if the adjusting knob was gold, and the price went up many fold, nor would I support Stata 8 if the investment was not based on the quality of the tool and the pricing commensurate with the value.

It (how Stata Corp allocated their resources for the last two upgrades) doesn't matter because with every update of any software package which is at all widely used, there are features that meet the needs of some, but not all users. Stata Corp is in the best position to evaluate where the enhancement priorities are. They do a good job of that, both in their private relationships with accomplished professionals, and in their attention to the dialogs on Statalist, and in the sessions that appear to be included in every users group meeting where "wishes and grumbles" or something of that sort are discussed. I am certain, even without a formal hypothesis test, that no large software company can provide exactly precisely what each and every individual user wants, and trying to do so would necessarily be impossible because enhancements for one are detractions for another.

They have a very harsh judge of whether they get this all right: the market.

Beyond that, without getting into the detail, they appear to have invested well in the features you mention above, at least in my opinion. there are advantages of the GUI that MP and Nick and myself have spoken to in the last two days. I doubt that any of us uses the GUI very extensively, but I and they also seem to, endorse it strongly as an asset to the program. I can tell you that when you want to run an unfamiliar command and get all the options right, it is nice even for someone who usually operates from the command line, although it's greatest advantage may be for capturing stats newcomers and turning them into long term Stata users, which ultimately provides support for doing the improvements for statistical modeling etc.

The other area that I strongly believe they made a great investment in is the graphics, for reasons others have mentioned previously as well as some personal considerations. It was highly requested by many, though again, not all. I will tell you that having worked with other programs with very strong in graphic capabilities, I have come to believe that graphics are often underappreciated in the business making sense of and evaluating ones data, as well as underappreciated relative to the ability to help others "see" what one "sees" . I think, and the teacher in me thinks, that good quality graphics are good tools for understanding and transmitting that understanding. Whether I now, or ever will, use all the power of the new Stata graphics is less important than that I know my tool supplier is working to substantively enhance the tool I use.. because Stata is as important to the quality of some of my work as the plane is to my woodworking. It makes a difference.

Do I blindly think they get it all right every time? no way! But they are earnest in their pursuit of developing an excellent tool, and responsive to the users, and they deliver a good, effective tool for a great price. I have plenty of ideas that I'd like to see them implement, but making these tools is their business, and they are doing a fine job of moving that part ahead. I don't have the time or expertise to develop my own tools, so I'm pleased by what they do and will continue to support that effort, even though it it doesn't precisely match my personal priorities...Stata is a great tool, and at the end of the day Stata helps me make a difference, and stata 8 does that better than stata 7.

Buzz Burhans

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