Monday, January 24, 2011

That's the LAST Time I Hit Snooze On My Alarm Clock

Hello, SAS-ites everywhere! Allow me to be the first to wish you a very happy 2011... wait, you say that would've been appropriate a month ago? Where the heck was I, you ask? Now settle down, no need to get all worked up! The holiday season is a time for family, friends and food... and I certainly enjoyed all three of those, in spades, as I hope you did as well. Let's just say my 2011 'snooze' button was engaged more than a few times in early January... Still a long face? Sigh, okay...

Allow my first real words in 2011 to be a heartfelt apology; as the incomparable Nina Simone sang, I've 'been gone too long'... although I sure hope it ends up better for me than it did for her poor fella in the song! You guys are a forgiving, accomodating audience, aren't you?

To tell you the truth, part of my silence can be easily explained. I've been extremely focused on some potentially exciting news out of SAS Canada, especially for Canadian SAS users. Details are currently being finalized around a dynamic new forum for SAS support: the (still-to-be-named) SAS Canada Community Site!

What the heck is this, you might ask? Truthfully I'd be glad if you did ask (I'm not sure how I'd introduce the concept otherwise) as it gives me the opportunity to start talking about it in a lot more detail. The Community Site grew out of the ever-increasing primacy of social media as a delivery method for pertinent, useful information. Whether it's catching up on news, tweeting out an intriguing white paper, networking with other business professionals or developing our online persona through blogs and discussion forums, the number of SAS users who are helping to provide valuable, useful content to the world through this channel continues to grow. News and other information is now instantly accessible to all: for example, by the time I finish this blog post, my RSS feed will have populated with another 50-75 articles to read... and over the course of the evening I'll try to finish all of them!

Our first steps in social media were tentative and small: slowly but surely, SAS Canada has been increasing our presence in a few of the more popular networking spaces. If you search for your local user group in LinkedIn or Facebook, you'll find a community of SAS users ready and willing to connect and collaborate. You'll also find us all over Twitter: I myself tweet quite actively as do many other SAS staff members. We're comfortable in these spaces, we're motivated to share with you and we have something valuable to say. We're ready to take it to the next level and that's what the Community Site is all about. Canadian SAS users and SAS Canada staff will be posting original thought-leadership, collaborating in order to get the best out of their SAS applications, networking to business advantage and leveraging their knowledge in order to increase their online profiles. Blogs, discussion forums, instructor videos, course follow-ups: all this and much, much more will be headed your way over the next year.

You may be saying to yourself, "I've avoided social media and not noticed that I'm missing anything up until this point: why bother now"? A much more common question - and one that I've heard quite often over these last 6 months - is "who has the time to get involved"? It's this second question I'd like to address ; hopefully, I'll be able to quell your reservations and perhaps encourage you to consider joining us in the near future.

I myself do find the amount of information out there to be overwhelming at times. After all, we all have careers, commitments and concerns outside of work which rightly occupy much of our time. However I see this as a challenge, not a limitation. I can recall that 16 years ago during my undergraduate work at U of T (whoops, just dated myself!), I obtained my first email address (which is still active today: and yes, it's embarassing, so no, I'm not telling!). Getting in the habit of checking this new networking/information source took some time, but today - like most of you, I would wager - it almost feels like I check it in my sleep! Just as we all adapted to using email as a new, quicker and broader form of communication, so too is social media impacting the way we interact with each other today. I hope you'll take the same plunge with the SAS Canada Community Site that I did with email all those years ago. I think you'll find that you not only do have the time to get involved, you'll want to contribute to the community. Ultimately, you'll benefit greatly benefit from the information you gather and the connections that you make.

I'm being a little careful with exactly how much information I give out: I'm really excited about this, but I've learned to temper my big mouth with a little patience. The site will be shaping up over the next few months - I'll have updates for you, have no fear - and I hope to have it up and running by early spring. We'll need some beta-testers as well: a few people have already stepped forward, but I'm always interested in more opinions... so if you'd like to be a tester, just let me know in the comments or send me an email.

I'm glad to have found my online voice once again. I must admit I did miss writing, even if it's just to hear myself 'speak'. I'm very much looking forward to what 2011 will bring, in particular, I anticipate getting to know many of you much better and that prospect makes me grin from ear to ear.

Coming up soon: the spring 2011 user group schedule has been (almost) finalized: curious about when the next meeting is happening in your area? What about the agenda? I'll have details to come... plus, a few stories of my recent experiences with SAS users in the field and LOTS of info around SAS Global Forum.

Until then...