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NESUG is doing what??? (part 2)

August 29, 2011

Hi NESUG friends,

Once again, work has a way (as I’m sure you can understand) of getting in the way and keeping me from giving you the frequent updates I intended to, so with less than two weeks ’til opening session in Portland, it’s about time I got you caught up on some of the conference activities.

For starters, if you haven’t been to Maine before – or even if you have – one great way to see it by a day trip to Freeport.

Freeport (http://www.freeportusa.com/) is a beautiful coastal Maine village with over 200 upscale outlets, designer shops, eclectic boutiques, B&B’s, hotels, great restaurants and casual cafes. It is home to world-famous L.L.Bean and to numerous outdoor adventures. We invite you to shop, play, and snack in Freeport! Enjoy an authentic Maine experience. The bus will leave the hotel early Sunday afternoon, drop you off in the center of Freeport, and return in time for the Opening Session dinner and events.

This year NESUG is also offering a Monday morning feature presentation prior to the start of concurrent sessions at 8:00.  Mike Zdeb is a veteran NESUG presenter who always gives his audience the perfect combination of entertainment and quality content.  In this presentation, he gives us The Lifetime Warranty.

Mike is an Assistant Professor in the University at Albany School of Public Health.  He has been using SAS for over twenty years.  During that time he has presented papers and conducted  workshops at numerous SAS user conferences.  He is a frequent NESUG contributor and the author of the popular SAS book Mapping Made Easy with SAS.  At the University at Albany he teaches SAS courses and notes that one of the most satisfying aspects of teaching is when you discover that your former students are using what you taught them in your courses.  Mike’s courses come with lifetime technical support, and he often gets emails with “Lifetime Warranty” in the subject heading.  The feedback Mike gets in these emails inform his teaching and give him additional insight into how SAS skills helped students find positions and how these skills are used on the job.

Mike’s presentation explains what he teaches and discusses a number of the lifetime warranty questions he’s received, as well as his suggested solutions.  The questions and answers range from simple data steps to creating non-standard maps with SAS/GRAPH.  There’s something for everyone in this talk by someone who is not only an accomplished SAS programmer and teacher, but also an entertaining speaker as well.

I’ll have a few more goodies over the next few days to get you excited for Portland.  Any questions?  As always, we’d love to hear from ya!

See you in two weeks!

NESUG is doing what??? (part 1)

July 18, 2011

Hi NESUG friends,

Let me first start by apologizing for my recent blog absence.  Blog sites tend to be most effective when they stay fresh with material, and lately I haven’t given that to you.  You know how it is though – life sometimes just gets in the way.

Anyway, we’re now under two months ’til the conference, and with all the exciting activities that’ll be happening in Portland, I just couldn’t help but log in and start to tell you about them.  Over the next few weeks I want to post a few blogs about some of the plans that NESUG has for Portland.  Some of them will be familiar to NESUG veterans but we’re doing a few new things this year too that I think will have everyone excited.  In each post I’ll mention something about one or two activities, and also maybe post an abstract about some of the feature presentations (i.e. Sunday Workshops, SAS presentations, etc.).  Feel free to log on and post comments or questions – as I always say, we’d love to hear from you!

Ooh!  And before I forget – early registration rates end on JULY 22.  Go to nesug.org or click on the link to the right to begin the registration process.

The first new NESUG feature I want to talk about is the new conference mobile app.  Yes, I said it, NESUG has a conference mobile app.  Now I think I’ve mentioned before that in spite of being a brilliant SAS programmer, I’m not always the quickest to pick up new technology (still workin’ on breaking my Pac-Man record).  But this, I gotta see.

NESUG 2011 will have available, for the first-time, an app / mobile website available for iPhone/iPod Touch, Android, Torch, Blackberry and more.  With this app/mobile website, you will have the always-up-to-date schedule in hand, an attendee list on the go, and a virtual message board. You will be able to create your own schedule, map your way around the meeting space, watch the conference Twitter feeds, and find out about our sponsors.

Make sure you give it a try.

In this blog I also want to highlight one of the Sunday Workshops – Queries, Joins, and WHERE clauses, Oh My!  Demystifying PROC SQL – delivered by one of my favorite people ever to reside in Chapel Hill, NC – Christianna Williams.  This workshop will be presented at 1:00 on Sunday.  See nesug.org or the registration for information on fees.  Here’s what you can expect.

Subqueries, inner joins, outer joins, Cartesian products, HAVING expressions, Set operators, INTO clauses…  Just the terminology of SQL can be rather daunting for SAS programmers raised on getting the DATA step to do our bidding for data manipulation.  Not to mention the profusion of commas and complete dearth of semi-colons found in a PROC SQL step!  Nonetheless, even the most die-hard DATA Step programmers must grudgingly acknowledge that there are some tasks – such as the many-to-many merge or the “not-quite-equi-join” – that would require Herculean effort to accomplish with DATA steps but can be achieved amazingly concisely, even elegantly, using PROC SQL.  This workshop will present a series of increasingly complex examples to illustrate the function of each of PROC SQL’s clauses, with particular focus on problems that would be difficult to solve with “traditional” SAS code.  And after all, PROC SQL is part of Base SAS; so, though you may need to learn a few new keywords to become an SQL wizard, no special license is required!

Stay tuned for more information on more cool stuff happening this year in Portland.

And don’t forget to register!

A special NESUG welcome

June 8, 2011

At NESUG we value all of the SAS users in our community, and we strive to make the conference experience an educational, pleasant, and fun one for everyone.  This year we would like to recognize those that are new to the professional SAS users community with our new Junior Professionals Program.  Those of you that fit this category, please read below for a chance at a free registration at this year’s conference.  Don’t delay though – the DEADLINE IS THIS FRIDAY, JUNE 10 (my apologies for the late post).

With support from SAS, NESUG has a new grant program to encourage and make it easier newer SAS users to attend and participate in NESUG 2011.

We are pleased to be able to offer free conference registration to selected SAS users who are using SAS in their workplace and have been doing so for less than 3 years.  This is intended for those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend NESUG.

Each grant will cover the NESUG Conference Registration fee (allowing attendance at presentations and conference events from Sunday evening, September 11 through noon on Wednesday, September 14) plus a half-day workshop (morning or afternoon) on Sunday, September 11.

Travel expenses, accommodation and meals will be the responsibility of the attendee and will not be covered by the grant.

NESUG is an all-volunteer organization.  We expect that our grant recipients will volunteer at least ½ day of their time during the conference to assist NESUG, as many of our attendees do.  Volunteering is a great way to meet people and contribute to the success of the conference.

If you have been using SAS in the workplace for less than 3 years and would like to be considered for a Junior Professional grant, please tell us about yourself by providing the information requested in the application form and emailing it as an attachment to JrProf@nesug.org by the application deadline of June 10.  Notification of grants will be emailed to applicants by June 20.

Call for Papers is Closing? Where did the Time go?

April 18, 2011

Do any of these sound familiar?

“I had a great idea for a paper a while back, but when Call for Papers opened things at work got busy and the time just slipped by.”

“I found a unique solution to a work problem, but I’m sure somebody outside of my workplace has already discovered the same solution.”

“I think I’ve got material to present but I’m not much of a writer”

Call for Papers comes to an end this Friday.  It seems like it was just yesterday when NESUG first started asking for abstracts and when we first started blogging about our experiences and anecdotes related to SAS papers and presentations.  Whether an experienced or a new presenter, I hope that these stories, our Facebook posts, email correspondances from NESUG or SAS-L, and other testimonies you might have heard about the rewards of presenting at a SAS conference have at least inspired you to consider putting your ideas into words. 

NESUG isn’t looking for the next Pulitzer or Nobel Prize winner.  There’s no need to set aside a half of a day to write an abstract.  Just take 15-30 minutes to write a short paragraph about the problem you’re addressing and a couple of quick sentences about the resolution your paper will propose.  If accepted, your section chair(s) will be there for you throughout the whole process.  Nothin’ to it.  Honestly!

And believe me when I tell you – you’ll be glad you did it.

Las Vegas: A Palace for a Global Forum

April 10, 2011

I returned home three days ago and I’m still seeing twinkling lights, slot machines, and huge fountains spraying water a mile up into the air.

Bear in mind as I share that before last week I had never been to Vegas before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Probably my first surprise was my descension down the airport escalator to baggage claim only to find slot machines!  Outside of the airport was the longest line for taxis I’d ever seen, and easily the largest collection of taxis I’d ever seen.  Then I got to Caesar’s Palace.  As I walked into the lobby of this hotel that seemed as big as most Big 10 college campuses, my jaw nearly hit the floor.  This sure didn’t look like a place where I’d find hands on workshops or a demo room.  Where were all the signs for SAS Global Forum?  I had a feeling that the large gentlemen with the little earpieces standing at the entrances to the casinos that surrounded the lobby had no idea what a SAS Global Forum was.

Probably not unlike many others, after several trips down Cleopatra’s Way and Appian Way, through several casinos and past giant electronic boards with the scores of every single sporting event currently taking place, I finally found the elevator to my room.  After more of the same, past several extravagant shopping stores, I somehow found the conference center, and everything started to look familiar.  Unlike past years, I spent most of my time in the demo room at my company’s booth (d-Wise Technologies).  I also spent some time over in the SAS Publishing area (more on that in a future blog).  With my new position at d-Wise, rather than attending a lot of talks, I spent time this year talking to people about our company, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

I also had a talk on Wednesday morning that went very well and enjoyed talking to several people about it afterward.  Another rewarding speaking experience.  If you were at SGF, I hope you had a great time and got everything out of it that you wanted to.  If you’re considering submitting at NESUG, I hope you got a chance to speak with others that have done it before. 

If you attended SGF in Las Vegas, tell us about your experience.  How were the talks?  The demo room?  The mixers?  What did you hope to get out of SGF, and how did it compare to what you actually did get out of it?

What Makes Good Presentation Material?

March 10, 2011

How do you decide what to present?  Do you wait for ideas to just present themselves to you, or do you have to dedicate to think of something?  How do you know if your ideas are good enough?  Amongst several ideas, how do you choose one (or two or three)?

My first paper came at the suggestion of someone else.  Since I knew almost nothing about SAS conferences or conference paper presentations in general, that was the only way a paper idea was ever going to occur to me.  We had been working on a project that had some interesting and unique solutions, and so it seemed reasonable that putting it into a paper and designing a Powerpoint presentation might draw some people to it.  I enjoyed the experience and for the next couple years made it a point to take some time to develop details around certain areas of interest for presentation.  I don’t know if it was just the experience or if the work I was doing at the office was just getting more interesting, but as the years went on, I learned to recognize good paper ideas in my day-to-day work.  When abstract submission time came along, I’d have a list of ideas from which to choose.

Everyone has their own set of standards when it comes to deciding on paper topics.  Personally, my preference is to talk about something unique, something that I have a feeling not a lot of people know about.  At times that might be familiar topics presented in a unique style to give people a different way to think about things.

What other criteria are out there for deciding on paper topics.  To the experienced speakers – how have you been able to come up with good topics for so long? 

Of course SAS conferences allow have different presentation formats too.  How do you decide when a topic is good for a Hands on Workshop?  For a Coders Corner presentation? How about for a poster? 

We’d love to hear from ya!

Mike

Why do we present?

March 4, 2011

As I composed my last blog post about my first presentation and thought back to everything I went through, I was  reminded of some of the questions that went through my mind during those difficult times, staying up late at night trying to come up with just the right way to word something or figure out exactly how Powerpoint slide animation worked.  As lots of other presenters far better than I have also done from time to time, I started asking myself, “Is there something wrong with me?  Why am I putting myself through all of the time and agony of spending hours at night, locked in my room or in the basement, away from my family, writing a paper and creating Powerpoint slides?  Didn’t I swear after college that I would never write another paper as long as I lived?  On top of that, why am I doing it all for free?!?!”  And yet, after all that time and effort, coming up with no answers to those questions, I, along with thousands of others, continue to do it year after year.

I’d like to tell you that “it’s my way of giving back to the community,” but that’s just something that rich and famous celebrities say, and I’m not quite there yet.  For me, while I think that there is some truth to that, I tend to think there’s a lot more to it.  Though I can only speak for myself, I have the feeling that deep down, there’s a part of all of us that likes to share with others what we feel we know well, especially if that something is unique.  I certainly fall into that category.  I also feel that while nobody’s asking for autographs after my presentations, circulating my name throughout the community and matching it with valuable skills and knowledge can only lead to good things down the road.

Most people that know me know that I’m not always very social.  I don’t do well at parties, and I even get a little tense when someone gets on the elevator with me.  But I look forward to conferences.  I’ve met lots of people over the years and its not because there’s an overabundance of people who are willing to talk about the weather.  I think that in part, it’s because being a presenter opens up opportunities – some for friendship, some for business relationships, among others.

If you’ve presented before, share with us why you got into it and the benefits you’ve reaped from the experience.  What advice would you offer to new presenters?

If you’re about to present for the first time or even considering it, what are your hopes?

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