Microsoft’s new Insider system of ‘Cohorts’ aims to shape future of Windows 10

Microsoft has a new idea to further refine the testing of Windows 10 by introducing a system of ‘Cohorts’ to gather more relevant and targeted feedback from Windows Insiders, in order to develop the features that the desktop OS really needs.

Windows Central spoke to Dona Sarkar, head of the Windows Insider Program at Microsoft, who explained that the new system is part of an overall revamp of how testing is handled.

Cohorts are focused groups of testers – led by someone from Microsoft, and a ‘champion’ from the Insider community – who are particularly interested in certain elements of Windows 10, and thus will hopefully offer a higher quality of feedback when it comes to how the capabilities they’re testing will work out in the real world.

Sarkar employed the example of stylus users when she chatted to Windows Central: “People who make massive use of pen and ink on Windows 10, they're the people we need feedback from in that scenario. So instead of just general feedback, what if we focused on getting feedback from creatives that really push the envelope with pen and ink? They're the ones who are going to be using it every day, right?”

And the hope is that such feedback will let Microsoft pick out the features that really need to be worked on – the ones that’ll really be useful to those who pick up their stylus and use it extensively on a daily basis. As opposed to more general and broader feedback in which testers may request features that aren’t so relevant.

The overall idea is to allow Microsoft to get a much better sense of what needs to be worked on, and what ideas may be more of a distraction, and less relevant for the core users of any particular area.

Complementary Cohorts

It certainly makes sense on a basic level, although note that Microsoft is only experimenting with this concept right now. And Sarkar was also keen to stress that this isn’t a replacement for existing feedback mechanisms, but rather a complementary measure.

In other words, opinions gathered via the broad Insider user base and Feedback Hub, plus of course telemetry data straight from Windows 10 users, will remain as important as ever.

Indeed, Microsoft has apparently used the aforementioned telemetry data to actually identify power users for the closed preview of the Cohorts system which is now underway (on an invite-only basis).

Currently, there’s a Creators Cohort which contains the likes of graphic designers and other creative types, along with a Cohort for the new Fluent Design interface, and another for Insider MVPs. Presumably more will be added as this effort gathers pace.