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st: adoption practices

From   Kit Baum <[email protected]>
To   [email protected]
Subject   st: adoption practices
Date   Mon, 25 Oct 2004 16:36:16 -0400

Nick wrote in response to my posting

I'd agree with Kit in broad terms, but invert that order.

It can be pretty obvious to StataCorp and many others that
(1) is true of a package, and apparent that (2) is true,
but (3), expanded realistically, is the crunch.

Any idea that (1) and (2) qualify a user-written program
for adoption by StataCorp misses out what's involved:

(a) scrutiny of code
(b) scrutiny of help file
(c) writing dialog if not done
(d) writing and running test scripts
(e) writing manual entry
(f) tech support

I did not intend to suggest in any way that (1) and (2) taken together are by any means sufficient; for an economist, (3) on my list---the provision of tech support (including maintenance, enhancements, documentation rewrites, etc.) is a MUCH bigger commitment, since its cost is the discounted present value of doing that work (and competently answering the user questions about the routine) from time = t to +\infty. Even at a high discount rate, that is a large number, and if it is not an affordable sum, Bill G. the economist will not be willing to shell it out.

To say nothing of the costs of Nick's item #4 above: anything added to Stata has to "play nicely" with everything that is already there, and that requires (using Stata's published standards; see Bill G.'s SJ article on software certification) a LOT of testing (and retesting, every time a single new feature or bug fix is made! On every platform supporting Stata!) Yes, if I was on the StataCorp payroll, I would not be real keen on adoption, as much as I would want the package to do everything for everybody.

StataCorp have, IMHO, taken an alternative strategy (to creating a bloated behemoth with manuals no one can lift): they have made it trivial for you, me, Nick, and everyone else to set up our favorite procedures and distribute them costlessly via SSC, user sites, SJ, etc. Do I have the same confidence that any user code (including my own) is as bulletproof as what comes out in 'update ado'? Of course not; the quality of the offfcial updates is what I'm paying good money for when I buy a new version of Stata (and those who are not eager to update ought to think about that). But just as in literature, some authors are better craftsmen/women than others...

Kit Baum, Boston College Economics

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