Granularity – who cares?

December 31, 2007 at 4:46 pm 1 comment

Well I do, actually – granularity is more important than we think for many fields…no, it’s not some sort of breakfast cereal- it’s the size or scale that characterizes an object or activity. And often we see errors made in placing activities at the same level that are not actually at the correct level … An example – I recently noticed a survey that featured the following question:

In which region are you working?
– Sub-Saharan Africa
– North Africa and Middle East
– Europe
– South Asia
– East Asia
– Russia and North Asia
– China
– North America
– Central and South America
– Australasia and Japan
– UK
– Other region

The problem is that the countries and regions mentioned are at different levels – and this is a problem of granularity. “UK” and “China” are not at the same level as “Central and South America” and “South Asia”. This creates problems for people completing the survey – If I live in the UK what do I select? UK or Europe? Both are correct.

In this example, there would be three possible solutions; 1) list all countries of the world using an ISO standard list, 2) list countries applicable to the project (using “other country” for those exceptions that will certainly arise) or 3) use broad, widely accepted regions, such as Europe, Asia, Africa, etc. These solutions resolve the issue of granularity by placing the countries/regions at the same level.

It may seem banal but if these issues are not resolved before the questions are asked, the analysis will prove difficult. This is just one example – granularity is important for many fields such as information management (libraries), website design, software and retail (you never see supermarket aisles marked “vegetables, cereals, bananas” do you?)

Glenn

Entry filed under: Evaluation methodology.

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