Another (better) attempt to talk about cohortsPosted: January 12, 2009
So I read my Friday post, and it’s a mess.
So here’s my point, simply stated:
We are an event-driven culture.
The reasons for that in the past have often been due to technical limitation.
Those limitations are gone, and now we find ourselves in a world where we no longer have to pull our learning or entertainment out of the event stream. In video, that world really started with the video store. But still people gravitate towards the new releases section. Similarly, radio broadcast of music is ridiculously redundant, yet we still live in a world of the latest hit.
Why? Because despite the long tail of the past, and the availability of customized media, there is still a social, emotional, and possibly intellectual need for certain things that event-driven culture provides. One of those desires is to talk about things on the same day, that is to talk about Episode 7 of Battlestar Galactica with people that have just seen Episode 7, but not Episode 8. There’s something to that. There’s a democracy to having that conversation where neither person knows what is going to happen next week. There’s a joy in listening to a hit song, and forming an opinion on it which can be understood by others listening to the same hit song.
So where does that leave us, the people enabled by technology to transcend the narrow broadcast stream of the immediate, but still feeling some loneliness on that journey? Well, I like this idea of cohorts.
A cohort is like a book group. They decide to read a series of books in the same order, one at a time. Perhaps they even have a mid-book break, where they read up to a page and discuss “The book so far”. Similar groups are likely to grow up around instant media and stuff in the Long Tail of the Past. You want to go through Kojak or The Prisoner on Netflix “Watch Instantly”? Well, you’ll have the option soon, I think, to either watch it, or set up a cohort schedule. You set up a cohort, and invite friends to it. Friends that accept will get a Kojak episode added to the top of their queue on a specified schedule, and by joining the cohort will be locked out from “reading ahead”.
I can see similar things happening in other media. And I think with Tony Hirst’s work on scheduled RSS feeds, and the work of Philipp Schmidt and others on P2P study groups around OCW we are starting to this emerge in education as well — static content transformed into a dynamic serialized stream to improve engagement.
So there you go: Cohorts. Or perhaps another term I haven’t heard of. But whatever it is, it’s the future.