Microspeak: scoped to


The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives as the meaning of scope as a verb to look at for evaluation, as in "to scope out the competition." But that's not how we use it at Microsoft.

Here are some fake citations:

The Widgets pop-up shows the available widgets scoped to the current selection.

The results of the search are scoped to the current folder.

Workflows can be scoped to containers, content types (scopeable to containers, sites, collections, servers, or enterprises), or combinations of these.

Okay, that last one wasn't fake. You can tell it's not fake because it is extra confusing.

To be scoped to something is to be limited to or filtered to that thing, or things which apply to that thing. In other words limited in scope to. Here's an attempt to translate those citations into English:

The Widgets pop-up shows the available widgets which apply to the current selection.

The results of the search are filtered to those in the current folder.

I'm not going to try to translate that last one on there. It has this sort of Escherian feeling to it. "Workflows can be scoped to A, or to B (which can be scoped to A), or combinations of A and B (which means combinations of A, and B, and A's within B's?)"

Another sense of the verb phase scoped to is altered in scope. Usually, the change is to reduce the scope to meet external constraints:

The proposal has been scoped to meet our December release.

To emphasize that the scope has been narrowed, you add the adverb down: "scoped down to."

Translation: "The original proposal was too broad and could not be accomplished within the required time allotted, so we reduced its scope to the point where the parts that remain can be accomplished in time."

On the other hand, sometimes scope expands.

Based on customer feedback, the search results have been scoped to include archived data as well.

And finally, a citation from an official Microsoft job description:

Oversees the structuring of consulting engagements to ensure they are properly scoped to meet the customer's requirements profitably.

Comments (19)
  1. xpclient says:

    Explorer in Windows 7 and Vista is scoped to only sorting files automatically.

  2. Anonymous says:

    who knew that the scope of the word scope was broader

  3. DWalker59 says:

    This use of scope sounds almost like the domain of a function (things which apply to that thing).  Remember domain and range?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Presumably this came from the programming domain, where the scope of an identifier refers to the part of a program where that identifier is bound to a value. From en.wikipedia.org/…/Scope_(programming) here's an example of such usage: "… a variable might have block scope, meaning that it's scoped to just a single block of statements."

  5. I've also heard scope used a verb in the present tense, i.e. "scope this variable to the loop".

  6. Anonymous says:

    Looks like another case of verbing a noun, except in this case the noun has already been verbed with a different meaning.  Here we say things like, "The proposal has been reduced in scope to meet our December release." which makes much more sense.

  7. Anonymous says:

    This is one of the more intuitive microspeaks that I have seen here. It's incredibly confusing usage in the wild not withstanding.

  8. @Brian I don't know something you build has a scope. Deciding what that scope should be is "scoping" the project. Things where the scoping has happened have been "scoped".

    Of course features creep. Which is a funny concept too. Not counting features you are already aware of requests for do features that know one has thought of yet exist in some nirvana where all the things that would make your life easier live and gradually crawl into the real world product schedule?

  9. Mott555 says:

    MIkeGall

    "Not counting features you are already aware of requests for do features that know one has thought of yet exist in some nirvana where all the things that would make your life easier live and gradually crawl into the real world product schedule?"

    My mental language parser is unable to scope in on the meaning of this sentence.

  10. Anonymous says:

    This is the worst Microspeak invention I have ever heard of.

  11. "Workflows can be scoped to containers, content types (scopeable to containers, sites, collections, servers, or enterprises), or combinations of these."

    I'm betting that's a SharePoint reference.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I was beaten by Gabe, but that first useage just doesn't seem weird or confusing at all to me, or probably to anyone who has taken and remembers anything about their PLs class. Or, rather, the third one still does, only because I don't know the specific domain meanings of workflows/containers/content types. I would -personally- be more likely to say that an item "has scope of", rather than "is scoped to", but one seems pretty clearly derived from the other.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I think 'down scope' and 'up scope' are good expressions of narrowing/expanding scope. They make me think of submarines, and submarines are cool, albeit a bit stuffy.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I thought that the Microspeak definition was the canonical definition, not the MW definition.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Doesn't this come from naval use in ye olde days, when you use a (tele/peri)scope to take a better look at things, thereby making those clearer, but limiting what of the world you actually saw?

    That programmers stole the term centuries later… well, it's what we do, apparently. Someone also took the term Sprite (another ancient term) to mean those bits of a video game that moved around, and now apparently a sprite is a collection of icons used for buttons by setting background positions in css. That last use is blasphemy as far as I am concerned :P

  16. Anonymous says:

    Wrong usage of words exists everywhere but no other language I know except for English offers the style of management gibberish talk that are hinted in the third and the last example. There are much worse examples of course.

  17. Anonymous says:

    The very last one reminds me of Phil Ken Sebben's motto (for anyone that's seen Harvey Birdman):

    "Putting clients first by putting employees first. Immediately after prioritizing fiscal responsibility and leveraging profitability toward exceeding by empowering our employees to put clients (and themselves) first, in a diverse and respectful environment of only those that come first, first."

  18. Anonymous says:

    @Jeff: It's incredibly confusing when your punctuation is so bad; ". It's" should be ", its" and also "not withstanding" should be "notwithstanding".

  19. Anonymous says:

    Another Microspeak I head lately: Play (n.). I think it means strategy, as is:

    (our competitor)'s play is X, and therefore our play is Y.

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