Google Moderator launches

Here’s a fun link for you. Google just released a free service called Google Moderator. This is a port to Google App Engine of an existing tool we use all the time at Google. Internally it was called Dory (after the fish who asked questions all the time in Finding Nemo).

What does Google Moderator do? When we have tech talks or company-wide meetings, it lets anyone ask a question and then people can vote up the questions that they’d like answered. The user interface looks like this:

Google Moderator screenshot

My team uses it often at Google, e.g. it’s great for prioritizing which questions are most important.

I like that Google is in many ways turning itself inside out by taking many of our internal tools and making them available to the world. We use tools such as Gmail and Google Docs all the time in-house to share information, presentations, and docs. Guido van Rossum recently announced that a version of Mondrian, our internal code review tool, is available for the outside world to use. Now Google Moderator is another tool that anyone can use. Projects such as Google Code and Google App Engine make it even easier to share code or applications with the world. And releasing low-level tools such as protocol buffers or high-level tools such as Google Web Toolkit makes life easier for lots of developers.

Google is not the only company that does this, of course. Yahoo for example has their excellent Yahoo User Interface Library, Yahoo Pipes, or YSlow. Its just nice when companies release code or tools that benefit lots of people on the web.

At any rate, give Google Moderator a whirl. You can create your own “series,” which lets people ask and vote on questions. Who knows, maybe we’ll try to find a way to use Google Moderator the next time we do a webmaster chat. Oh, and Google Moderator is a free service, so give it a try sometime.

P.S. Congrats to the engineers that launched this as a 20% project. :)

47 Responses to Google Moderator launches (Leave a comment)

  1. That is pretty awesome, Matt. Thanks for the info.

    I love how Google makes all the apps so “fuzzy”, they make me feel warm inside. lol

  2. Dave (original)

    it’s great for prioritizing which questions are most important.

    Matt, I prefer the method where ALL questions are given 15 minutes of fame so as to point out pros and cons.

  3. This Dory I have to say looks interesting. I pass on many tech tools as the web is inundated and saturated with the latest and greatest must have tools, but this little thing looks useful. Why? It is interactive, everyone wants to have a voice if they have a question or idea that is worthy, and rightfully so as question and idea ‘gems’ are found usually in the rough rather than fall from the sky.

  4. Great stuff! I definitely have to take a look at Google App Engine. Shame on me, that I haven’t already…

  5. If you have a bunch of my friends voting, the highest rated questions would contain the words “boobies” or “poop”. If you could get both words in one question, it would immediately be promoted to the top.

    The success of the app is a bit dependent on the quality of the people who are allowed to vote.

    One could say that about a democracy too. For example, anyone who takes the phrase “kissin’ cousins” literally… not allowed to vote.

  6. Before anyone else tries this, you can’t use HTML anchor code…it doesn’t work as such. Mind you, the results turn out rather weird. I typed <a href=”http://www.walkonmypath.com/”>Walk on my Path</a> and got just the “Walk on my Path” text. Maybe you should remove all of it instead.

    You might want to go one step further and do a replace on anything beginning with http://, too.

    If you can solve those two minor things, you’ve got a pretty decent thing there, and something that will have next to no use for spammers.

  7. Imagine every company has a tool like this! And imagine it comes with an easy feature called “rate the management!” Seriously though, does Google plan to maybe rent out spaces for groups or corporations, so that they can create a private section for internal use only? It might even make a few bucks for Google.

  8. Chip

    Does Google use it for questions like…

    Should site example.com rank so high for ‘some term’?

    ? and then pass it around the office for voting… ;)

    BTW, on the heels of Digg’s questions, sometime like this would have been way better than “randomly” selecting questions.

    Chip-

  9. It looks cool, and is already starting to be a bit addictive. Obviously there’s lots of people who want to ask Googlers lots of questions (as well as world leaders!).

    More by luck than judgement I was one of the first to ask a question, of course I directed it at you ;) (first ftw! as they say).

    So, another question – are we likely to see these questions answered :P, and if so when? And another – is the voting system just for fun?

    I’m sure you’ll enjoy most of the stuff that comes from this. Enjoy being answerman even more!

  10. COP

    So 10+4 = ?

    Matt, seems pretty useful.. its interesting that G uses it internally — presume it wuld promoted a culture of questioning things at all level.. great idea..

    the CSS/design need some more work.. colors look very ugly.

    –COP

  11. Hi Matt,

    This is cool!

    And just a quick questions, can I keep the questions in private? Or like I just want my team or selected people to respond or view my series. Would that be possible?

    There are might reasons why I need to keep the “series” only available to my selected friends/groups for confidentiality perhaps, just like the Google Docs.

    Thank you,
    matchmatch

  12. It’s great to see the fruits of a a 20% project… I think many of us love the way Goog does this and would love to hear more about 20% projects.

  13. Usability note: It’s not clear if the series I create are public or private.
    Creating a checkbox with public/private option will be great!

    Great tool for feature voting.

  14. @MattCutts:

    Reminds me of the NowPublic publishing/rating tool. Can I use it for my website too?

  15. Dave (original), the idea is that all questions can be visible, but you can answer the ones that more people want answered first.

    Greg Bulmash, too true. :)

    Chip, nope. The questions are generally about algorithms, not specific sites.

    Gary, I will try to answer some of the questions that people asked me.

    panzermike, it’s a webapp, so you’d probably need to send people to the url; I haven’t tried embedding it as an iframe.

    matchmatch, I think the url that is created is unlisted. I’ll ask about the public/private checkbox because that would be cool. On the other hand, getting something completely private while allowing large numbers of people to vote/ask questions might be hard, so it might be that unlisted is as much as it will do for now. So for now don’t use it for any top-secret Illuminati-esque series of questions that has to be kept secret. :)

    One thing I did check on is whether it will ever leak your email in any way, and the answer I got back to that was no.

  16. Solar Powered

    So when will a version of Moderator be embedded in this blog? :)

  17. useful tool but a little too “obvious” i think that people will just pick the most voted ones…

  18. You just gotta love Google ..

    Soon, all I’m going to need is a browser and noting else .. but I guess thats the idea …

  19. Damian, that’s about all I run these days. Okay, maybe an SSH terminal from time to time too.

  20. If you’re taking suggestions for features, Matt, I’d suggest a swear filter. I just did a test using the word “bull****” (see George W. Bush) and it took the word as is.

    I haven’t gone full-borne Tourette’s on it yet, since it took the one word, but I figured “bull****” made a good test, so I left it in there.

  21. One other thing about it that I just noticed (and it’s minor)…a lot of the Bush questions are in pretty much the same vein (war on terror/America’s image). If you could determine whether or not a similar question already appears to exist (within reason), then that might avoid a lot of duplicate/repeat questions.

  22. Great idea and slick tool!

  23. Rex

    re: The “private” version…

    re: matchmatch, I think the url that is created is unlisted. I’ll ask about the public/private checkbox because that would be cool. On the other hand, getting something completely private while allowing large numbers of people to vote/ask questions might be hard, so it might be that unlisted is as much as it will do for now. So for now don’t use it for any top-secret Illuminati-esque series of questions that has to be kept secret.

    I can see it being used in conferences or seminar situations or inside an group that doesn’t want the discussion to be seen out of context. Just a thought. I like it, however, and if it works for folks, I’m sure a private version (or knock-off) can be offered by Goog or others. Thanks for pointing to this, Matt. Kudos.

  24. I’m helping organize a BarCamp like conference (http://www.rubydcamp.org), and we’d love to have something like this as a tool to select the presentations that will be scheduled. To do this, though, it would be really helpful to be able to restrict access to attendees. ;) Is there any possibility this could become a feature?

    Thanks,
    Keith Bennett

  25. Google is making its space in the market with the great speed. but I couldn’t understand the application of Google Moderate. Would I be able to embed this into other applications of Google like gmail or Google Doc etc?
    How will I have the others to share their opinions?. Thanks!

    Mudassir

  26. Matt check it out- Steve Jobs posted you a question and its a good one. Can you address the anwser on your blog tomorrow,, or just email me the anwser- SERIOUSLY:

    http://moderator.appspot.com/#e%253Dagltb2RlcmF0b3JyDQsSBlNlcmllcxjJAQw%252Bt%253Dagltb2RlcmF0b3JyDwsSCERvcnlVc2VyGOY0DA%252Bv%253D11

  27. Keith Bennett, I’ll try to pass along the suggestion. I suspect the Google moderator engineers will read over here, too.

    Multi-Worded Adam, a swear-word feature is another good idea. Inside the Googleplex, we didn’t really have a problem with that issue. :)

  28. This is a great tool. Someone earlier mentioned that all questions should be answered, but either they’ve never spoken at a conference, or have been going to very different conferences than I have. Here are some reasons you’d want to use this tool, and why you can’t just answer all the questions:

    1. As you can see even from the screenshot, many times people are asking the same question in different ways. There is no point to answering the same question over and over again.

    2. In a room with 500 people in it, giving each a 15 minute “fame” time would take 125 hours straight. I don’t think most people would sit through that.

    3. Sometimes (more often than you’d think) people looking for “fame” will post deliberately stupid, obscene or otherwise unanswerable questions. This helps weed these out.

    4. Some people forget that they are not the only people in the room, and ask questions that really should be answered in a one-on-one session, like “can you go through my fly-tying site page by page and optimize it for me right now, live?”.

    5. Some people will have “followup” questions, effectively monopolizing the speakers time and shutting out everyone else. By submitting the questions and letting the moderator ask them, this issue is avoided. I’ve actually seen people wrestle to keep the microphone!

    6. On a more positive note, by allowing some control over the questions, many speakers, I think, will be much more open to Q&A periods. It only takes a few incidents like the above to start wondering why you even bother, which is unfortunate because most of the time the Q&A sessions are at least as interesting, and occasionally more so, than the presentation itself.

    All in all, a very good thing. I’ve used a system like this at Danny’s SMX Advanced, and I really liked how I was able to interact with the audience better than the standard “shout out your questions” approach a lot of conventions use, which tend to favor giving time to loud people, rather than good questions.

  29. Harith

    Dave (original) & MWA

    Here is something both of you would like tooooo much. Enjoy :)

    Ask a Google Engineer!

    This is your chance to interview Google engineers! Feel free to ask anything to:

    Matt Cutts
    Adam Lasnik
    Erick Tseng
    Jeff Dean
    Andrew Morton
    Ken Thompson
    Guido van Rossum
    Taliver Heath
    Colby Ranger
    Bill Weihl
    Any Engineer

    PS. as to the moment 1,079 people have submitted 272 questions and cast 10,238 votes…

  30. drew

    You can also submit feature requests, questions, and comments here:
    http://moderator.appspot.com/#e%253Dagltb2RlcmF0b3JyDQsSBlNlcmllcximNAw

  31. Dave (original)

    Ian, “dory” was designed for company meetings, not conferences where 500 people are present.

    BTW, 500 questions with 500 people voting on each would see all 500 being stuck in the 1 room for quite a few hours. Not practical and not the right tool for the job.

    As Matt states. ALL questions are still visible, it prioritizes them based on voting

  32. Dave (original)

    Matt, what’s up with AdSense…..?

  33. Ian M

    Some issues:

    - It’s quite hard to get to the homepage from a particular series (the logo isn’t even a link to the homepage).

    - You can flag as inappropriate, but not flag that a question is in the wrong category (e.g. for Elections, questions for a candidate in the general questions section).

  34. Mmm, there isn’t a private version. This isn’t Google Answers, right? :P

  35. (Sorry for re-posting but the blog nuked the url examples so just kill my previous post please. All url examples have had their “<” changed to “{” etc. for these examples.)

    Matt I got a question/idea depending on whether something like this exists already.

    The ability to mark a part of or specific content on a page as non-indexable.

    Why would I need this? Well, Google is able to ignore it’s own ads obviously and not just to them being javascript either.

    But there are a lot of other ad systems out there, and in my case on a project I’m working on, we’ll be rolling out our own system.

    Some form of new attribute that could be put in any tag to mark is as non-indexable would be great.

    The result would be that a external or automated/rotating ad, or some other feed or whatever would not cause false positives or poison the context of the page itself, thus making Googles index of that page even more accurate when people search.

    Example: Be it a external ad, internal ad or some feed, containing words like “milk” but the page it’s shown in has nothing to do with milk, but computers instead.

    Such a attribute would solve this issue.

    SEO’s should love this as they avoid external or random content from poisoning the page context.
    Various advertisers and news feeds should also like this as they avoid poisoning their clients/target websites.

    If no such attribute exist, I’m not sure what to suggest.
    HTML5 has a “irrelevant” attribute but it’s definition to not suit this use,
    so a different global attribute would have to be defined.

    Lesse…how about a “context” attribute? (kinda makes sense doesnt’ it?)

    This means that you could have a {div context=”noindex”}blah blah{/div} and any search engine (and browser) would know that this content is not considered a part of the page context but rather foreign content.

    Since it would be a global attribute it could also be used with {p} or even an {iframe} or even {a} and {span} and so on.

    Definition of “irrelevant” attribute: http://www.w3.org/TR/html5/semantics.html#irrelevant
    Which as you see would not be suitable for the purpose I described above sadly although it’s name would suggest otherwise it’s behavior is similar though.

    The cool thing though with a global “context” attribute is that it could easily replace the current rel=”nofollow” because you could do:
    {a href=”http://example.com/” context=”nofollow”}blah{/a} and Google could give no weight to the link but still index the link text.

    Or {a href=”http://example.com/” context=”noindex”}blah{/a} and it would follow it but not index the text of the link itself.

    And {a href=”http://example.com/” context=””}blah{/a} would be the same as if the attribute was not used at all.

    Oh and one could do {a href=”http://example.com/” context=”noindex,nofollow”}blah{/a} and it would not follow nor index the text of the link.

    Am I on to something here with this idea or?

    I just came up with this today when I got frustrated by a false positive. The content/text of a ad on a page had the keywords that I searched for but the context of the page was nowhere near relevant to my search so it was a dead end for me.

    Both SEO’s and advertisers would most likely want to use content=”noindex” as that alone would prevent their ad or external/foreign content from poisoning the context of the page they are on.

    Remember, I hit a dead end thanks to a ad poisoning the context of a page, whether the site otherwise was relevant I have no clue as I went back to Google to refine my search, so that’s one lost visitor and one ad ignored, nobody wins.

    With my idea, I can see no drawbacks, at worst (hardly anybody use it) thee is hardly any change from today, at best (everybody use it appropriately) and we’ll see Google and other search engines with reduced false positives, and advertisers can be sure that their ads wont hurt the content of the page they are displayed in, or that the news feed on a page won’t hurt the site’s page contexts, and so on.

  36. @MattCutts:

    Sure enough, Google assigned new PR today. Your suspicion was correct Matt! :-)

  37. The 20% project from Google is really giving a fruitful result. I liked this concept only after joining and browsing Orkut.com . Eagerly waiting what would be the next product.

  38. If only more companies tried to do something like this where they collaborated with others on an idea instead of getting approval of the higher ups and just running with something that some of the underlings might have seen as a bad idea.

    I hope this takes off in some cutting edge offices so we can see it’s true potential.

  39. Chip

    Question: where are the answers posted?

  40. I began to use Chrome about three weeks ago.I like its simplicity and speed.But I’m not used to it.Thanks for telling me where to give feedback.

  41. wow Matt,

    I was actually thinking just this past week about developing a similar system to Google Moderator for Lectures at my university where students with laptops could send the professor a question and then the professor could just go through the list of questions or answer your question privately later via email or something like that.

    Great Idea for the corporate sector!

  42. This is a great concept from Google, and it inspired me to create TownHall (http://www.town-hall.net) which offers similar functionality tbut with secure controlled access for internal business/enterprise use. It is still under development but I’m looking feedback to help make it a great product. Please visit and try it out!

  43. How the heck do you make a Moderator area public on an html page so people can interact WITHOUT creating a Google.com account?

  44. I’m having a hard to embedding google moderator on my site. I read the how-to in help but its not working.

  45. I don’t know if this is possible in the other Google products like Google Profiles, but if it is, then it would be very helpful. What about Google Wave? Isn’t interactivity that is topic based & shared info supposed to address some of these things? I wasn’t lucky enough to get a Google Wave license to beta-test it, but from what I understand it is topic-based & then everyone can comment accordingly to solve that problem. It looks pretty sweet!

    Just my 2 cents…

    Dave

  46. I totally agree with my earlier comment! What happened to Google Wave!!!!????

  47. Walid

    Google Moderator does not open with Internet Explorer 8 nor Google Chrome . . . any suggestions? . . .Thank you.

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