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Re: st: Statalist in a forum format

From   Sergiy Radyakin <[email protected]>
To   "[email protected]" <[email protected]>
Subject   Re: st: Statalist in a forum format
Date   Mon, 7 Apr 2014 22:16:22 -0400

I agree with Richard that the forum must be simple enough to be used
by a novice, but I also agree with Stas: 100 posted questions, in my
opinion are different from 100 posted answers, which in turn are
different from posts like "your question is not clear, can you
rephrase?". That has to be somehow separated at
Points can be given, best aswer chosen, or some other mechanism
introduced. And yes, I do want to be able to skip through the
deliberation and get from the question straight to the answer, without
scanning through solutions that didn't work, solutions that worked,
but solved another problem, etc etc.

Stas, there are multiple forums like StackExchange. The problem is a
critical mass of the users. I am sure StataCorp wouldn't mind if all
the users self-organized and moved to a forum like StackExchange long
time ago, without having to detour the resources of developers for
support of the forum. That in my opinion, would be a major step
I don't see a problem in organizing a parallel forum in StackExchange
and if I google something, I also prefer StackExchange links quite
often, but so far I like to hang out with the nice people at

Best regards, Sergiy

On Mon, Apr 7, 2014 at 10:29 PM, Richard Williams
<[email protected]> wrote:
> Never having used stackexchange I have no opinions. I wonder, though, is
> this a system that is user-friendly to occasional posters, or do you have to
> be some kind of fanatical expert? It sort of reminds me of the 5,000 options
> you can get with an Android phone as opposed to the 50 options you get with
> Apple that you actually use. I just would be leery of a system that is
> intimidating to many people. But maybe after 3 minutes you fall in love with
> stackexchange.
> At 09:34 AM 4/7/2014, Stas Kolenikov wrote:
>> Dear Stataliasters,
>> thanks again to Marcello Pagano, Stata Corp side team and everybody
>> involved in setting up I however would like play a
>> devil's advocate and argue that we DO NOT NEED statalist in that form.
>> I would instead argue that we need to find ways to move the statalist
>> discussion to the StackExchange system (
>> Let me describe the system in bold strokes. (Disclaimer: I am closely
>> familiar only with the statistics website on StackExchange family,
>>, although I keep an eye on another five
>> or so sites, such as latex, math, biking, and board games, out of 100+
>> for all walks of life). On each of the sites, users ask questions and
>> seek inputs from other participants. Other users can answer these
>> questions. (So far, that's trivial, and every forum does that. The
>> crucial differences begin at this point.) The quality of different
>> answers can be compared by upvotes or downvotes that registered users
>> can cast. Answers can be improved by editing. In fact, questions can
>> be edited, as well (so at the very least, one could edit a novice's
>> question to incorporate the code formatting and tag the topic(s) that
>> the question raise(s)... and NJC can edit Stas Kolenikov's questions
>> for silly grammar :) ). Besides full answers, users can also provide
>> smaller-scale comments. Duplicate questions are being identified,
>> flagged, and closed, with links to what they are duplicating. A user's
>> contribution to the site is measured by their "reputation" that is
>> accumulated through good questions and answers, and by badges (asking
>> questions roles, answering question roles, editing roles, flagging
>> roles, etc.). Thus there is a variety of feedback mechanisms that help
>> improving the quality of questions and answers, and motivate the users
>> to participate. Thematic sites provide special formatting and/or
>> syntax highlighting, like Latex-type MathJAX formatting on math or
>> statistics sites (implemented on, as well); code
>> formatting on programming and statistics sites (partially implemented
>> on, requires some cleanup, as far as I understand; on
>>, R code is provided with simple syntax
>> highlighting, too); chess board rendering on the chess site; card
>> rendering on the poker website; etc. There's a sophisticated system of
>> tags that have mini-wikies (available on mouse-over) and full wikies
>> (available on clicks); users accumulate their reputation both overall
>> and within tags. Moderators play a major role in keeping the site
>> running, as it is the moderators who take actions on low quality
>> questions and answers (close duplicates, migrate questions to more
>> appropriate sites, etc.)
>> The biggest difference between a typical forum format (including
>> statalist) and StackExchange is the conceptual vision of the mission
>> they have in mind. Historically, plain-email-text statalist has been
>> aimed at "User 1 posts their current problem" - "User 2 posts a
>> solution to that specific problem" - "User 3 refines, if there's room"
>> - and everybody forgets about the whole thing a month later (although
>> in the case of statalist, we often see referrals to statalist
>> archives). StackExchange works on generating knowledge about the
>> universe (in this case, this would be Stata universe) that is supposed
>> to stay for prosperity, so that website users and the Internet at
>> large could benefit from the previously generated answers. The
>> ultimate goal is that StackExchange posts show up on the first page of
>> Google when you search something like "fixed effects model with
>> heteroskedastic panels". In some of my Google queries, I do indeed get
>> SE posts, so somehow the mechanism of StackExchange I described above
>> does work.
>> I am not quite sure how to better describe my next point, but I think
>> that creating compartmentalizes Stata as an obscure
>> software. While those in the academic ivory towers can enjoy their
>> academic freedom, others in industry and government have to fight this
>> impression at their workplaces ("How is it called again? Why are you
>> not happy with some alternative software that we have a license
>> for?"). This is a tiring uphill battle. (Literally today, I had to
>> convert some SAS code to Stata and back, and StackOverflow, the
>> programming branch of StackExchange, offered some good pointers...
>> which I got from the first Google search page!) The statistics branch
>> of StackExchange, CrossValidated (, is
>> heavily entrenched in R, and the popular claims regarding popularity
>> of R are based on the counts of posts on StackExchange
>> ( Moving to
>> rather than to would help strengthening the argument
>> that Stata is a proper, kosher, mainstream statistical package. A
>> fivefold or tenfold increase in the volume of Stata questions that
>> could happen once hsphsun2 closes would make a good splash in Stata
>> reputation in the big world outside statalist walls.
>> Toning this down a little bit, I think the best of two worlds can be
>> combined on if the major components of the StackExchange
>> system are utilized. The unique features that Stata Corp can donate to
>> the system to make it superior over the limitations of the format and
>> capabilities of StackExchange would be syntax highlighting similar to
>> that of the Do-Editor, and automatic links to the online help files
>> ( that are added once a Stata
>> command is being identified in the code section. A more prominent use
>> of tags is a must for the forum to be usable as a reference, rather
>> than a hit-and-run (ask-and-wait) system that it has historically
>> been. Stata commands may act as tags (based on either what user enters
>> as a special tag if that's something user-contributed, like -outreg-
>> or -ivreg2-, or what is being recognized automatically, which I
>> suggested above). Users should be required to use tags, or at least
>> asked to confirm when they are submitting a question with no tags. (7
>> tags on 78 "General" forum questions, and two more from "Using the
>> forum"??? I'd say it is not working yet.) For tags to work well,
>> though, other users should be able to edit tags in the original posts.
>> Adding any of that functionality would require serious work on the
>> forum engine. How much the engine can be expanded, I have no idea; I
>> am not a website programmer. If this equates to just reproducing
>> StackExchange engine, it is obviously a futile exercise.
>> Joining StackExchange system as a separate site may or may not work
>> out (see -- there should be a
>> critical mass of users, questions and topics, and so far, I am aware
>> of about five or so statalist people who are active on CrossValidated,
>> which won't create a critical mass). R questions are split between the
>> statistics website and the programming website, depending on whether
>> it is more of "why doesn't lmer produce a standard error for variance
>> components" (statistics) or "how do I tweak ggplot2 to produce
>> transparent graphs" (programming). I imagine Stata questions could
>> work pretty much the same way, too. At the moment, there is about 1
>> question a day on Stata on statistics website, and may be two
>> questions a day on programming website... compared to 10+ new
>> questions on statalist... on a slow day.
>> -- Stas Kolenikov, PhD, PStat (ASA, SSC)
>> -- Principal Survey Scientist, Abt SRBI
>> -- Opinions stated in this email are mine only, and do not reflect the
>> position of my employer
>> --
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