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RE: st: An Apology

From   "David E Moore" <[email protected]>
To   [email protected]
Subject   RE: st: An Apology
Date   Fri, 31 Oct 2003 10:22:29 -0800

There are three issues here.

First, the felt need to keep a certain kind of exuberance under wraps.  If Jean
Marie was chastised by Official StataCorp for exceeding the bounds of their
rules for list netiquette, then there isn't much more to be said.  However, if
it was the well-meaning perception of an independent user, such as myself, then
I fail to see the foul that Jean Marie committed.  A flip reply all by itself
can certainly be annoying to some, but when it fully and clearly answers the
question I take it as a breath of fresh air.  Statistics and stat packages are
dry enough that I personally don't see the need to grind out what's left of any
sense of humor expressed on the list.  I'm sure there are timid souls out there
who would be ill-served by a list that used mean-spirited humor to run roughshod
over personal feelings and insecurities (and frankly I'd have little use for it
myself), but Jean Marie's response hardly seems to fall into that category.

Second, the behavior of the dialog box in the specific example cited.  Compound
quotes is not what the user expected in this particular instance.  If the dialog
box assumed the quotes were indeed part of the string and inserted compound
quotes, then it would be creating a logical rather than syntactical error.  This
seems far worse than producing code that generates an immediate and obvious
error.  Thus, being able to insert compound quotes is no solution to the general
problem.  Personally, I think the present behavior is correct.  The user should
not expect to have to quote strings.  The quotes are required by command line
parsers, but this is a dialog box.  The question should be whether the dialog
box permits quotes in the first place (i.e., whether it should look for quotes
and complain about them if found), which brings me to the third issue.

The need for compound quotes.  Quoting quotes is usually a tricky business and
often is difficult to read.  If the capability existed, would it produce the
desired effect?  "Not always," would be my answer.  Simply adding the ability to
quote quotes does not ensure they will be inserted correctly.  Take the example
cited.  Compound quotes would not solve the problem.  The solution in this
particular instance would be to recognize somehow that the user intended to
simply quote a text string.  Then the program would either remove them before
adding its own or not add additional quotes.  The real question, then, is how
can the program determine what the user wanted?  I submit it cannot.  Making it
possible to compound the quotes simply obscures the main problem.  Moreover,
would this mean that the user would have to manage any compounding of quotes
within the text string?  In other words, is the dialog box only to handle
leading and trailing quotes or is it to examine the entire string and insert the
appropriate number of quotes?  I for one wouldn't want to be responsible for
solving this UI programming issue.

Dave Moore

> -----Original Message-----
> From: [email protected]
> [mailto:[email protected]]On Behalf Of Jean Marie
> Linhart, StataCorp.
> Sent: Friday, October 31, 2003 8:29 AM
> To: [email protected]
> Subject: Re: st: An Apology
> It was sent to me privately (thank you) that my
> previous response to Michael Hills with regards to
> quotes in the -labeldata- dialog box was inappropriate.
> I wish to convey an immediate apology for being flip --
> my intention was to be funny in addressing the issue,
> not that it is an excuse.
> In all seriousness, I believe that the dialog box
> is doing as good a job as it can under the circumstances.
> We will look at whether we need to take a harder look
> at the dialog parser (which is having a problem with
> putting in compound double quotes in a "put" statement)
> and whether it needs some modification, or if there is
> something that can be done with the command.
> --Jean Marie
> [email protected]
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