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st: list etiquette

From   Kit Baum <>
Subject   st: list etiquette
Date   Mon, 17 Jul 2006 07:48:53 -0400

Although I have nothing to add to the various good suggestions on how to better deal with the interpersonal aspects of Statalist communication, I would make the following points:

1) new and inexperienced users who do not know about 'update' are de facto ignoring the results of thousands of person-hours of development work at StataCorp, squashing bugs, adding enhancements, etc. They are unknowingly resurrecting bugs that should be dead by now. Comments by posters exhorting them to get their act together are well-meaning, whether or not well put from the standpoint of courtesy.

2) N&IU who do not know how to use 'findit' and 'help' are dooming themselves to beg for assistance -- from Statalist, from their institution's services, etc. -- when those services are available. The "RTFM" and "RTFOLH" questions are not necessarily evidence of laziness on their part, but gross inefficiency. If I can answer a question in 30 sec. myself, why would I want to wait for someone else to respond (or for 9 AM Monday morning when I can ask for institutional or official support?) My own PhD students do this all of the time, knowing that I am often on line, and I provide them with an answer and remind them that they could have found this out themselves, whether or not they could have found me. Most of them get that point, even without increasing curtness on my part.

3) N&IU whom for whatever reason are not aware of, or who are afraid of, user-written capabilities and the net install/ssc/adoupdate facilities are missing out on a great deal of what Stata has to offer. They often must reinvent the wheel (or ask how it can be done) if they ignore the advice to 'just install this command, and it provides a solution to exactly that'.

For these and other reasons, the Statalist FAQ clearly suggests some aspects of behavior that are in my mind not so much geared to increasing the signal-to-noise ratio of Statalist but towards helping all users -- including N&IU -- get their money's worth out of their copy of Stata and the Stata user community. Sadly, many N&IU do not heed (or even read) this document. That is a pity, for it indicates that some people are making their lives much more difficult than they need be.

Kit Baum, Boston College Economics

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