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st: A wish list for Statalist

From   "roy wada" <>
Subject   st: A wish list for Statalist
Date   Tue, 02 Jan 2007 20:13:04 -0500

It has been over a year since Statalist was taken off the Yahoo Group listings. My delivery of Statalist Digest has been erratic, sometimes missing up to 90% of the postings. Judging by the recent drop in postings, other people might be experiencing similar problems.

Reading through the Digest is not as fun as it used to be. Too much to go through before getting to the point.

Here is my personal wish list for Statlist.

1. Make HTML as the default

With free online accounts, most people should be able to access HTML. We really should move on and make do without the HTML gibberish and the many reminders not to use it.

2. Updated forum format

There are "canned" solutions for setting up a web-based forum. These forums are easy to use, easy on the eyes, and easy to understand. I really would like to see Statalist upgraded into one of these web-based format for forums (HTML-based, mind you). If you don't know what I am talking about, see these examples:

With the updated format, the administrator could, for example, set up several sub-topics, such as installation, programming, data cleaning, estimation and inference, and advanced statistics. If someone wants to see everything in one place, as is currently the case, you should set up such a sub-topic (except it shows everything).

In these forums, the newest postings appeas at the top and still keep the thread intact.

The administator can also place the existing guide to Statalist in the form of a "sticky" at the very top of the forum, where it might actually be read by someone. These forums usually have a few designated moderators (volunteers) who can occasionally clean up threads, fix errors, discourage trolls, etc.

Such set ups are much kinder to the new users who have in the past tended to get left behind. The new users usually have problems with data cleaning, so that's where they should be found within the forums, away from those who might not be well disposed towards that sort of thing and spare us the clutter.

It is also much easier to post on these types of forums without having to go through email accounts, fixing the subject heading (something I usually forget), and cross your (my) fingers that no mistake was made because I can't come back and fix it.

As Statalist currently exists, the posters cannot even change their own thread titles and it just doesn't look good. Statalist currently works more like a BB (bulletin board) where everyone is shouting to everyone else. It's messy, too noisy. Archiving of every errors and typos is unsightly. Valuable information is in there, but not in a useful format. I have hundreds of old Statalist Digests sitting in my email account untouched and unread, I am going to erase them soon.

The HTML-based forums can usually accomodate anonymized accounts, which minimizes abuse. I currently get much more spams when I post on Statalist.

3. The Stata Corp should be "in" or "out"

Statalist has been a valuable resource for the Stata Corp. Getting people to donate their own time and effort towards helping other users what more can a company ask for. As it has been previously pointed out, having Statalist hosted on the Stata Corp website presents a serious conflict of interest. People are less likely to volunteer information when it appears (as sometimes is the case) it is something the Stata Corps should have handled by itself. It also presents a dilution of responsibility because the line of responsibiliy isn't clear.

I personally would like to see the Stata Corp to either be actively involved in the management of Statalist, including setting up a user-friendly forum mentioned above, or completely be disengaged from Statalist by having it hosted on somewhere else. It should be in or out, without giving a murky signal that it may come to the rescue should something go wrong. If the Stata Corp chooses to stay out, there's always a space somewhere, especially among the academic domains. The bandwidth requirement for Statalist shouldn't be too big.

Of course, Statalist has been maintained in the past by a number of generous people. There are good reasons for doing it this way or that way. I personally would prefer to see something less demanding, a little more organized, and a bit more egalitarian. I suppose someone could go set it up, but it would be nice if Statalist did all that.



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