Susan Slaughter

Archive for the ‘Publishing’ Category

Free Resources for Learning SAS (and Other Tips from SAS Authors)

In Everything, Publishing, SAS, SAS Global Forum, SAS Papers, Western Users of SAS Software on May 3, 2016 at 1:01 pm

In celebration of SAS Global Forum, the folks at SAS Press gathered tips from SAS Press authors.  Here is my contribution:

This is the best time ever to learn SAS!

When I first encountered SAS, there were only two ways that I could get help. I could either ask another graduate student who might or might not know the answer, or I could go to the computer center and borrow the SAS manual. (There was only one.) Today it’s totally different.  I am continually amazed by the resources that are available now—many for FREE

Here are four resources that every new SAS user should know about:

1. SAS Studio

This is a wonderful new interface for SAS that runs in a browser and has both programming and point-and-click features. SAS Studio is free for students, professors, and independent learners. You can download the SAS University Edition to run SAS Studio on your own computer, or use SAS OnDemand for Academics via the Internet.

2. Online classes

Two of the most popular self-paced e-learning classes are available for free: SAS Programming 1: Essentials, and Statistics 1. These are real classes which in the past people paid thousands of dollars to take.

3. Videos

You can access hundreds of SAS training videos, tutorials, and demos at Topics range from basic (What is SAS?) to advanced (SAS 9.4 Metadata Clustering).

4. Community of SAS users

If you encounter a problem, it is likely that someone else has faced a similar situation and figured out how to solve it. On you can post questions and get answers from SAS users and developers. On the site,, you can find virtually every paper ever presented at a SAS users group conference. The site is a wiki-style compendium of all things SAS.

For more tips from SAS Press authors, click here to read them all.


A short history of The Little SAS Book

In Everything, Little SAS Book Series, Publishing, SAS on November 19, 2015 at 10:11 am

In celebration of SAS Press’ 25th anniversary, Lora Delwiche and I reminisced about what it was like writing the first edition of The Little SAS BookYou can read about it on The SAS Learning Post. LSB1_and_SAS_manual

Who was the first SAS user to write a SAS book?

In Everything, Little SAS Book Series, Publishing, SAS, Writing on November 12, 2015 at 9:59 am

First_SAS_Book_cover SAS Press has been publishing books written by SAS users for 25 years.  That made me wonder: Who wrote the first such book?  The answer depends on how you phrase the question.  You can read about it on the SAS Learning Post.

Werken Met SAS

In Everything, Publishing, SAS, SAS Global Forum on June 4, 2013 at 7:13 am

Werken Met SASOne thing that impressed me about SAS Global Forum 2013 was the number of international attendees–28 percent!  While SGF (and it’s predecessor SUGI) always claimed to be the worldwide SAS conference, only recently has this actually become true.

One longtime international attendee is the SAS author, Erik Tilanus, who hails from the Netherlands.  Erik works as a consultant through his company, Synchrona, specializing in the airline and travel industries.  Not only has he attended SGF, he has even served as a section chair.

This year, Erik brought a copy of the newest edition of his book Werken met SAS which he showed to me at the Opening Night Dinner.  I can’t read Dutch, but, by coincidence, the person sitting on the other side of Erik could!  He was from South Africa and could read the book because Afrikaans is similar to Dutch.

Here is a description of Werken met SAS:

Er is een nieuwe editie van het Nederlandse standaardwerk over SAS: Werken met SAS. Deze nieuwe editie is bijgewerkt tot en met SAS 9.3.  In ongeveer 600 bladzijden wordt niet alleen de basis van het werken met SAS duidelijk gemaakt, maar worden ook diverse geavanceerde technieken besproken, zodat het boek zowel voor beginners als al enigszins gevorderde SAS gebruikers een hoop te bieden heeft. Alle technieken worden aan de hand van duidelijke voorbeelden toegelicht.  In totaal staan er meer dan 100 voorbeeldprogramma’s in het boek.

For those of you who don’t read Dutch, here is a rough translation:

There is a new edition of the Dutch standard treatise on SAS: Working with SAS.  This new edition has been updated to SAS 9.3.  In 600 pages it makes clear not only the basics of working with SAS, but also discusses various advanced techniques, so that the book offers a little hope for both beginners and advanced SAS users.  All techniques are explained using clear examples. In total there are more than 100 sample programs in the book.

Werken met SAS is a comprehensive introduction to the SAS system.  You can get an idea of the topics covered by viewing the table of contents.

Which Little SAS Book?

In Enterprise Guide, Everything, Little SAS Book Series, Publishing, SAS on May 13, 2013 at 2:56 pm

The Little SAS Book: A Primer, Fifth EditonOne of the problems that Lora Delwiche and I face as authors of two books with similar titles (The Little SAS Book and The Little SAS Book for Enterprise Guide) and multiple editions (five of LSB and three of LSBEG) is explaining how the books are different.

The two books are totally different–and complementary.

So I was delighted to see that someone at SAS Press has written a great summary comparing the various editions.

Did you know that the title The Little SAS Book was originally a joke? We explain that and give a little history on

The Little SAS Book Fifth Edition

In Everything, Little SAS Book Series, ODS Graphics, Publishing, SAS on November 19, 2012 at 9:28 am

Cover of The Little SAS Book: A Primer, Fifth EditonFive editions is a lot!

If you had told me, back when we wrote the first edition, that some day we would write a fifth; I would have wondered how we could possibly find that much to say.  After all…it is supposed to be The Little SAS Book, isn’t it?

But those clever folk at SAS Institute are constantly hard at work dreaming up new and better ways of analyzing and visualizing data.  And some of those ways turn out to be so fundamental that they belong even in a little book about SAS.  That’s especially true of this edition.

SAS 9.3 introduced several fundamental changes.  So we rewrote the book to reflect these.  One of the new defaults is that output is rendered as HTML instead of text.  That meant that almost every section in the book needed to be updated to show the new default output.  And since text output still has its uses, we added a section on how to send output to the good old LISTING destination.

In addition, ODS Graphics has matured a lot since it was introduced with SAS 9.2.  It has new default behaviors, and is now part of Base SAS.  The fourth edition of our book included a few sections on the SG procedures (SG stands for Statistical Graphics), but these procedures have developed so much that we felt they now deserved their own chapter.

In addition, here and there we split sections in two or added new ones to expand on features that were only mentioned before.

Here’s a short list, in no particular order, of new or expanded topics in the fifth edition:

  • Linguistic sorting
  • Concatenating macro variables with other text
  • AGE argument for the YRDIF function for computing accurate ages
  • LISTING destination for text output
  • Graph legends and insets
  • Graph attributes such as lines and markers
  • Image properties such as DPI
  • Saving graphics output
  • Many new graph options such as NBINS= for bar charts

Along the way, we removed topics or sections that had begun to feel dated or out of place.  For example, we took out the appendix on Coming to SAS from SPSS because it is now available as a free download that is both better and more complete.

So even though we have added a lot to this edition, it is still a little book.  In fact, this edition is shorter than the last—by one whole page!

To order a copy of this book, or view the table of contents or a sample of the book, visit the SAS Press web site.

The Reviewer Is Always Right

In Everything, Little SAS Book Series, Publishing, SAS on June 1, 2011 at 1:13 pm

…about something

…and it’s up to you to figure out what.

At SGF I had the honor of participating in a panel discussion titled “So You Want to Be a SAS Press Author!”  The panel was organized by Nancy Brucken, moderated by Michael Raithel and included authors Art Carpenter, Cynthia Zender, and Mike Molter.

During the discussion, the topic of reviewer comments came up.  I mentioned that when Lora Delwiche and I first sent our proposal for The Little SAS Book to SAS Institute, one of the reviewers said, “It’s not possible to write a book like this, and if you do, then you will be doing a disservice to readers!”  That was a pretty strong statement, and it stung—a lot.  I mentioned this to make the point that you can’t let negative comments derail you from following your dreams.  However, I now realize that I may have left people with the impression that they can safely ignore any comments they don’t like.  On the contrary, I have learned the hard way that

There is something to be learned from every reviewer’s comment.

Those comments you don’t like…they’re the ones you should pay the most attention to.  Maybe, just maybe, that reviewer knows something that you don’t.  And maybe, just maybe, that reviewer is even right.  If that is the case, wouldn’t you rather find out before your book goes to press?  Yessiree, that reviewer might be doing you a favor.  Maybe you should (politely!) ask that reviewer for more information.  At times like this, it is important to set aside all defensiveness and listen because there is something to be learned from every reviewer’s comment—although it is not always what the reviewer intended.

For example, you will likely get some comments that are just factually incorrect.  When you do, it’s tempting to think, This reviewer doesn’t understand!, and then ignore the comment.  However, when you get such comments, you should ask yourself, Why doesn’t this reviewer understand?  If the reviewer didn’t understand, then perhaps readers won’t understand.  Can you make your writing more clear?  Did you fail to explain something?  What does this reviewer need to know in order to understand?

So what was the lesson to be learned from the reviewer who said that it was impossible to write The Little SAS Book, and that if we did, we would be doing a disservice to readers?  The lesson I learned is that some people will react very negatively to a book that is small and friendly.  Of course, Lora Delwiche and I never imagined that we were writing a book that would appeal to everyone and that would meet every SAS programmer’s needs.  But we also never imagined that some people would react so violently.  Honestly, I do think that some people need to get a life.  It’s just a book, for goodness sake.  But even so, this reviewer did us a favor by warning us.

Highlights of SGF 2011

In Everything, ODS Graphics, Publishing, SAS, SAS Global Forum on May 12, 2011 at 8:48 am

I’ve been so busy over the last month that I am just now getting a chance to sort through my notes from SAS Global Forum 2011.  Here are a few highlights I found:

SAS OnDemand for Academics

SAS OnDemand for Academics (the cloud computing version of SAS) will be free for academic research starting in Fall of 2011.  This is exciting news!  I’m surprised it didn’t get a lot more attention at the conference.  Since Fall 2010, SAS OnDemand for Academics has been free for use by students enrolled in courses that use SAS.  However, the number of professors and students doing research is far greater than the number of students enrolled in courses that use SAS.  In addition, professors now have more reason to teach SAS because students will be able to use it after the class is over.  This change will help SAS to compete with R since the main reason that R is so popular is because it is free, but SAS Institute will need to work hard to get the word out.

New output in SAS 9.3

SAS 9.3—which is expected to be released this summer—will bring major enhancements to output.  For the first time ever, text output (AKA listing) will no longer be the default.  HTML will become the default destination for output in Display Manager, and a new default style template, HTMLBlue, will make our output pretty.  Of course, you will still be able to turn on text output for those times when you need vanilla instead of mocha-almond-fudge.

ODS Graphics will be part of Base SAS starting with SAS 9.3

ODS Graphics (which became production with SAS 9.2) continues to grow in both features and popularity.  In SAS 9.2 you need a SAS/GRAPH license to use ODS Graphics, but starting with SAS 9.3 it will be part of Base SAS.  This is good news because it will make sophisticated graphs available to all users of SAS/STAT regardless of whether they have a SAS/GRAPH license.  This should also help SAS to compete with R since the second most common reason that people use R is because it produces graphics. (Of course, traditional SAS/GRAPH still does a lot of things that ODS Graphics doesn’t, and you will still need a SAS/GRAPH license to use traditional SAS/GRAPH.)

ODS Graphics will be on by default in SAS 9.3 in Display Manager

One of the problems with ODS Graphics in SAS 9.2 is that you need to turn it on.  Many of the people who need it most (occasional statistical users) never learned about it and therefore never turned it on.  SAS 9.3 will fix this problem by producing graphs for statistical procedures automatically.  This applies only to statistical procedures run in Display Manager; for jobs run in batch, ODS Graphics will still be off by default.

New features in ODS Graphics

In addition to becoming part of Base SAS and being on by default, ODS Graphics will deliver many new features in SAS 9.3.  Here are a few of the ones that I’m excited about: bin control on histograms, side-by-side bar charts, ability to control the order of groups, grouped box plots, interval box plots, ability to produce bar charts from pre-summarized data, ability to draw a line using slope-intercept values, and even pie charts—because corporations still produce annual reports despite Stephen Few’s quixotic ranting against them.

New ODS Graphics documentation

One highlight of SGF was something I didn’t see.  SAS developers Sanjay Matange and Dan Heath have written a book about SG procedures.  A pre-production draft of his book was on display in the Demo Room, but I didn’t get to see it because both copies of the book were stolen!  Julie Platt, Editor-in-Chief for SAS Press, told me that this is the first time a pre-production draft has ever been stolen.  The fact that someone or some people couldn’t wait a few months for the book to be published says something about how eager people are to use SG procedures.

Enterprise Guide 5.1

Enterprise Guide 5.1 which is scheduled for release toward the end of this year (after SAS 9.3, not at the same time) uses the same basic layout and menus as EG 4.2 and 4.3. This is good news. Early versions of EG evolved so rapidly, that users were forced to learn an entirely new interface with each new release.  Starting with EG 4.2, the interface has stabilized. It means that this is a good time to learn EG.  If you’ve been waiting on the sidelines wondering when to jump in, it’s time to get your swimsuit.

Las Vegas

I admit I was sceptical about Las Vegas as a location for SGF, but the city of “Lost Wages” turned out to be a fun and classy location for a gathering of SASites (despite the irony of a bunch of statisticians meeting in a gambling capital). I would not be surprised to see SGF return to Las Vegas again.

Semicolon People: The Video

Here we see the real reason why people attend SGF—because it’s so much darn fun.  If you missed it at the conference (as I did), it’s not too late to see the video produced by Greg Nelson and Neil Howard.  Will  next year bring a “Return of the Semicolon People” video?

Copyrights and Apple Pie

In Everything, Little SAS Book Series, Publishing, SAS on November 15, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Like all writers (and artists, musicians, software developers, and other creators of content) I am concerned about the problem of copyright infringement. (Here is my previous post about this.)  So I was interested to find out that while I was at the Western Users of SAS Software conference, there was a veritable brouhaha about this issue.

In case you missed it, here is what happened:  A blogger named Monica Gaudio discovered that a post she had written about the history of apple pie had been published by a for-profit magazine named Cooks Source.  (Here is the original blog.)  Cooks Source gave Gaudio credit but didn’t pay her a cent or even inform her that they had used her work.  Gaudio asked Cooks Source to apologize and make a $130 donation to the Columbia School of Journalism.  Cooks Source refused to apologize or make the donation, and even suggested that Gaudio should pay them for editing her work.  When people heard about this, they began to wonder about the source of Cooks Source’s other content.  Using the Web, they quickly found that Cooks Source had lifted articles from Martha Stewart, the Food Network, Weight Watchers, and even NPR.  (Here is the story on NPR.)

Cooks Source claimed that anything on the Web is public domain and therefore free for them to use without compensating (or even crediting) the creators of that work.  This is simply not true.  Virtually nothing written in the last 20 years is public domain.  (Here is an interview with a legal expert on NPR.)

Cook’s Source has now apologized. (Here is their web site.)  However, they have also changed their story and now claim that publishing Gaudio’s article was an “oversight.”   Illogically, they also claim that they are the real victims here.

I, for one, am just happy to see the attention this issue has generated.

Note: The image in this blog was used by permission of the USDA Agricultural Research Service.

Does Crime Pay?

In Everything, Little SAS Book Series, Publishing, SAS on August 18, 2010 at 9:25 am

Answer:  It certainly doesn’t pay authors.

My sister recently told me that the Sacramento public library lists one copy of The Little SAS Book in their catalog.  However, it turns out that someone has stolen that one copy.

I figure that’s a compliment of sorts: Someone wanted The Little SAS Book enough to steal it.  To tell the truth I was flattered that the Sacramento public library had a copy of The Little SAS Book at all.  Next time I’m in downtown Sacramento, I must remember to donate a new copy of The Little SAS Book to the library, and while I’m at it, I might as well throw in a copy of The Little SAS Book for Enterprise Guide.

The case of someone stealing a single copy of a book from a public library isn’t a major crime.  A greater concern—at least to authors—is the evidence that electronic copies are being freely pirated.  Recently, I ran into a friend who is a student.  Looking at her laptop computer, I saw that she was displaying The Little SAS Book.  It was a sharp-looking PDF version.  Even I don’t have a PDF copy of The Little SAS Book!  “Wow,” I said, “Where did you get that?”  She sheepishly admitted that it had been given to her by another student.  She had neglected to mention this to me because she knew it was an illegal copy, and that I hadn’t been paid a cent for it.  Of course, this particular friend has a legal copy (that I gave her), so I’m not bothered by the fact that she now has a second copy even if it is illegal.

What does concern me is the fact that royalties for The Little SAS Book series have been declining, and are down 40% compared to three years ago.  During those years we worked hard and published two new editions.  So, logically our royalties should be going up, not down.  I can’t help wondering if the sales have dropped at least partly because people are using pirated copies instead of legal ones.  I’m grateful for the good sales we have had in the past, and I wouldn’t mind people passing around pirated copies if our royalties held steady.  But the truth is: I have to pay my bills just like everyone else.  The problem of piracy is not unique to me, nor to SAS Press, nor even to books.  This is a bigger problem that applies to music and movies too, and you can bet I’ll be watching to see how it turns out.