Susan Slaughter

Archive for the ‘Detritus’ Category

SAS in the News

In Detritus, Everything, SAS on September 7, 2010 at 8:39 am

What do social networking, SAS, and Saddam Hussein’s chauffeur have in common?

The article, “Untangling the Social Web,” in the newest issue of Economist magazine has given SAS some nice free PR.

I wonder if I’m an “influencer?”

I wonder how long it will take for this posting to show up in SAS Institute’s own social networking analyses?

The Truth About What Motivates Us

In Detritus, Everything, Sacramento Valley SAS Users Group, SAS, SAS Global Forum, Western Users of SAS Software on June 2, 2010 at 8:40 am

What motivates you? When I was a kid, I used to play a board game called Careers.  In this game players moved around the board collecting points in three areas: fame , $ fortune, and happiness. The first player to achieve his chosen combination of points won the game.  It was a fun game, but I used to scratch my head at the idea that success in life could be reduced to a linear formula consisting of fame, fortune, and happiness.  (Yes, even as a ten-year-old, this seemed to me a pretty vacant idea of what life was about.)

When I was in graduate school, I heard about research showing that money can have a seemingly paradoxical effect on people.  Paying people lots of money can actually reduce their motivation rather than increase it.  What I didn’t know is that research on this topic has been ongoing.  Then my son (Elliott Slaughter, Computer Sci. and Eng. major at UCSD and open source developer) sent me the link to a fascinating talk by writer Dan Pink.  His talk is cleverly illustrated by RSA Animate.

So what does this have to do with SAS? Have you ever thought how amazing it is that we have local, regional, and international SAS user group meetings organized and executed primarily by volunteers?  Why are so many people willing to work hundreds of hours without being paid a cent year after year after year?  Pink explains why money is such a poor motivator, and what people really want.  He uses open source software as his example, but you could easily substitute SAS users groups.

Take 10 min. to watch Pink’s video Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  I think you’ll be glad you did.

Books of the Future

In Detritus, Everything, Little SAS Book Series, Publishing, SAS, SAS Global Forum on March 12, 2010 at 11:19 am

In this posting, I take a break from talking about SAS to talk about the books of the future and the future of books.

I do not own an e-reader. I am a collector of books, good old-fashioned hold-them-in-your-hands-and-turn-the-pages books. My collection includes a copy of Winne the Pooh with a copyright date of 1925 (one year before the book is said to have been first published, something I can’t quite figure out), and a copy of The Norman Rockwell Album, autographed by the artist with a tiny sketch of a dog. I, for one, am going to continue to buy and read paper books.

However, I can see how useful an e-reader would be for reading technical and academic books. And I thoroughly expect to use an e-reader in the future–when the technology is good enough. At SGF 2009, I had the privilege of seeing The Little SAS Book on a Kindle. The result was not impressive. The formatting was pathetic, even distressing in a book where formatting is an important part of communicating the content. The images we had worked so hard to create were missing! Clearly, e-readers have a ways to go…but perhaps not as far as I once thought.

In an article in IEEE Spectrum, March 2010, Jason Heikenfeld discusses the various contenders in the e-reader market and what we can expect to see in the not-so-distant future. Here’s a quote:

“Like the jet pack, it always seems to be a decade away. So why should you believe me now when I tell you that the do-all e-reader will be available in a decade? Read on.”

Click here to see the article.

Top 10 Science Stunts for Christmas Parties

In Detritus, Everything on December 8, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Here is a must-see video from Richard Wiseman.  Ten great ways to entertain your friends and colleagues at a Christmas party–or better yet at the Kickback Party at SAS Global Forum April 11-14, 2010 in Seattle.

A Mathematician’s Lament

In Detritus, Everything on November 6, 2009 at 6:19 pm

“Have fun!” That’s what I would say to my two sons as they went off to school every day, from kindergarten on up to high school. And I meant it. I firmly believe that learning is fun. As I explained to my kids, if you are not having fun, you are probably not learning much so you should try to have fun.

My oldest son (now in college) recently sent me a link to the article, A Mathematician’s Lament, written by Paul Lockart in 2002. This clever and insightful article humorously describes how traditional education sucks all the joy and imagination out of the study of mathematics. Of all the topics taught in primary and secondary education, mathematics is certainly the most mangled and misunderstood; but the same rigid approach is applied to some extent to every field. I have even seen art taught that way!

So have some fun today, click here to read     A Mathematician’s Lament.

It’s a menu, it’s a button, it’s a…mutton?

In Detritus, Enterprise Guide, Everything, Little SAS Book Series, SAS on August 28, 2009 at 3:59 pm

The other kind of mutton

The other kind of mutton

Reflections on the vicissitudes of technical writing

If all software developers were also technical writers, software would always make sense. Unfortunately, in the real world, we are rarely so lucky. As a result, hapless tech writers—such as yours truly—are left with the unenviable challenge of describing in a logical manner features that are fundamentally whimsical.

I’m sure most people who read my work can’t imagine how much time we spend hammering out the exact use of terminology. Heaven forbid that I should call something a pull-down menu when it’s really a pop-up menu; or that I should refer to the Open window when it’s really the Open File window. Is a particular feature a page or a pane? It is tempting to call it a pain, but, of course, we can’t do that.

EG 4.2 presents tech. writers with a generous dose of opportunity to develop skills of elucidation. In particular, EG 4.2 introduces a large number of novel things never before described by SAS tech. writers. One of them is the Run button. This formerly straightforward button will be familiar to anyone who has ever used a task in EG. In EG 4.2 the Run button has sprouted a down arrow. If users click the Run button, they will get the same result as before: The task will run. If users click the arrow, then they will be presented with a list of choices—a menu. It’s a button and it’s a menu. As best I can tell, this makes it a mutton.

The Run mutton only offers two choices: Run or Create template. These are two totally different actions (at least from the point of view of a user) so why not give us two separate buttons?

The Run mutton may not make as much sense as it could, but at least with only two functions, it’s not too hard for a tech writer to describe. A much more complicated set of things appears at the top of the workspace—except when it doesn’t. At first, I though these context-sensitive (and therefore ever-shifting like the sands of the Sahara Desert) things were menus. Then I realized that some of them are simple buttons, without any choices. Once in a while an icon appears unescorted. So that makes them button/menu/tools. What do you call that? A muttool?

What’s a tech writer to say except, “Baa-aa-aa-aa.”

It’s good to be back.

In Detritus, Everything on February 26, 2009 at 6:42 pm

I’ve been intending to completely revamp my web site for a long time, but it’s so easy to put off things like that. Then I changed ISPs (what a production that was!) last summer, and in Oct. my old site disappeared from the Internet. But I still didn’t know exactly what I wanted for the new site. Well, the pieces are starting to fall together, and I have lots of ideas.  So here goes….

Update 04MAR2009: I had a dream about this web site last night. It was a more rational and less random than most of my dreams. People were accessing the web site, and making a movie, and returning from the Vietnam war. There were big, cushy chairs and people (including two SAS Press editors) were sitting around chatting in a friendly manner. There were doors leading who-knows-where. Maybe this means I’ve been working too hard, but the people seemed to like the web site reasonably well. If you’re into dream analysis, feel free to comment on this as long as any explication is suitable for a G-rated site.