How can you quickly determine whether a recommendation or technique is relevant to your context? You can use context-precision. Context precision is simply a set of categories that help clarify the context. I use context-precision both for creating more relevant guidance and for evaluating the relevancy of guidance.
Here’s an example figure I draw on a whiteboard or use in slides when I need to show context-precision.
Categories for Context
Here’s an example set of categories:
- Application Type: Web application, Web service, component/library, desktop application, mobile application
- Deployment Scenario: Intranet, Extranet, Internet.
- Project Type: In house IT, 3rd party, shrink-wrapped software …etc.
- Life Cycle: RUP, MSF, XP, Waterfall, Agile, Spiral … etc.
Note how you can quickly walk the context. For example, are you building an Internet facing Web application in a large Enterprise scenario? Are you building a Web service in a high-security context for a government deployment scenario? … etc. You can modify the categories to suit you. The key is to choose categories that help show meaningful differences.
How To Use Context-Precision
You can use context-precision to get clarity in the following ways:
- Determine if guidance is too general to be useful. Whenever you see guidance, you can ask questions about what the context was that it was optimized for. A lot of times, guidance that you see is generalized. Sometimes stretch to fit works. In many cases, it doesn’t. For example, validating input for Web applications is similar in concept, but very different in implementation when it comes to Web services.
- Determine if guidance is irrelevant. This is what happens when guidance for one scenario, is over-sold or mis-represented or simply lacking context-precision.
- Determine if guidance is relevant. This is when you have a match between what something was design and intended for, and what you actually need.