Monday, September 19, 2011

A Great Start to the Fall User Group Season

The Toronto Area SAS Society (TASS) meeting last Friday was the perfect way to kick-off what promises to be a very busy Fall/Winter user group season. As I blogged about on the SAS Canada Community site, I was really looking forward to a tightly-themed meeting. The focus of the event was on SAS macros, stored processes and efficiencies in the Enterprise Guide environment... and given the huge turn-out, it was definitely the right theme to attack!

All in all there were nearly 250 people who attended the day-long meeting. There were a few highlights which I'd like to pick out: some from a SAS perspective, others from a personal perspective. I think they'll highlight why I continue to feel privileged and overjoyed to support the great community of SAS users here in Toronto and across the country.

We were very fortunate to have two SAS Global Forum papers of note on the morning agenda. Mahmoud Azimaee reprised his 2010 'honourable mention' SGF talk on Integrating SAS & Google API to map health care data in his adopted province of Manitoba. This talk provided a level of visual stimulation not often seen at user group meetings. Using SAS and Google Earth, Mahmoud was able to map health-related data of interest on national, provincial and metropolitan levels. The GUI functionality of the program proved to be a real hit with the audience; appreciative murmurs of admiration were heard throughout the crowd as Mahmoud manipulated the maps and data with ease and skill. Truly an amazing talk!

This presentation was immediately followed by an invited paper for the 2012 SAS Global Forum taking place at the end of April in Orlando, Florida. Co-authored and delivered by TASS President Art Tabachneck, this paper highlighted the collaborative nature of SAS users on a across the world. Featuring contributors from the USA, Canada and the United Kingdom, it truly was a talk of global proportions! I was struck by the fact that a good chunk of the collaboration was inspired and conducted through the vehicle of SAS-L, the long-standing SAS online community. I think that many in the room were impressed and perhaps surprised by the benefit of connecting through online communities, a point reinforced by Art during his talk. The sheer scale and complexity of the work itself was inspiring; it was a monumental task and one which continues to scale up larger and larger. I'm anxious to see where Art and his colleagues are able to take it in later interations.

This theme of online collaboration continued with the afternoon session. SAS Canada's own Chris Sammut and Pauline Lee not only presented a macro which they had developed internally here at SAS, they posted it to the SAS Canada Community for everyone to use at will. In addition, they also provided a supplemental paper on how to deploy a similar macro as a stored process in Enterprise Guide. Fantastic stuff, and even more remarkable considering that they were first time presenters at TASS!

Rupinder Dhillon's talk on the built-in macros which exist in Enterprise Guide was her usual stand-up work and led perfectly into the final award-winning talk of the day. Harsha Kotian delivered her SAS Global Forum 2011 'best submitted paper' on SAS Enterprise Guide options, which was charming, witty and best of all well-received by the almost 90-strong attendees who remained late in the day.

I remarked at the meeting how a good portion of the agendas were driven through social media. Whether it was finding presenters through LinkedIn, building a crowd-sourced invited paper or connecting with others through the SAS Canada Community, this meeting featured many stories of social media showing its worth.... and for someone as engaged (read:obsessed) with this space as I am, that's a very good thing.

I'd also like to acknowledge some of the other elements around TASS which impressed, elated and humbled. I have to make special note of Rahman Sarker who took time out of his busy schedule to come in to SAS Canada a few days in advance of TASS in order to test out his talk... and then modified it happily and cheerfully. I think it paid off as his was one of the most discussed presentations of the day. I'd also like to thank Rupinder Dhillon who ran one of the break-out sessions before running back to work and Noemi Toiber Temin and Hiten Patel for their help at the registration desk. It's this sense of true, genuine collaboration which helps make the TASS meetings so successful and enjoyable. I hope those of you who weren't able to attend will be able to make it out for the December 9th meeting and experience the cameraderie yourselves in person. In the meantime, you'll certainly be able to access all the presentations here.

I reserve a special note for Mr. Carl Clutton. As the longest-serving member of TASS, it meant an awful lot that he presented me with a card and a gift in celebration of my recent engagement. It's this exact type of relationship that keeps me energized to support the SAS community. In many ways, my colleagues in the SAS user group world have transcended the customer-level: I consider them friends as well. A truly touching and well-received gesture: thanks again for your generosity and thoughfulness, Carl!

Next up in the user group world: I'm making a long-overdue visit to Saskatoon and Winnipeg in early October with my colleague Tara Holland. I can't wait to meet up with my friends there as well, and I'll be sure to tell you all about it here! Of course, you can find me blogging about the meetings in advance on the SAS Canada Community site as well.

Until then...

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Matt for saying many good stuffs about my talk! :)