Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Introducing Google Moderator on App Engine

At Google, we host a large number of "tech talks". These talks cover a wide rage of Computer Science topics like research in machine learning and methods for ranking images based on text queries. I've enjoyed attending these tech talks, but as the number of attendees has grown over time, the question-and-answer part of the talks hasn't been able to scale. There was never enough time for all the questions, and it wasn't clear that the best questions were the ones actually getting asked. And since many of these talks were led by offices outside of Mountain View, it became harder for distributed audiences to participate.

To help with this, I designed a tool in my 20% time that would allow anyone attending a tech talk to submit a question, and then give other participants a way to vote on whether or not that question should be asked. This way, the most popular and relevant questions would rise to the top so that the presenter or the moderator of an event could run the discussion more efficiently and in a transparent manner. The tool, which we internally called "Dory" after our favorite question-asking fish in Finding Nemo, quickly grew to other parts of Google including our weekly all-hands company meeting, as well as for our series of talks led by political candidates or distinguished authors.

Several of our colleagues and visitors to Google have asked if we could make it available externally for any kind of talk, presentation and/or event. Conveniently, Google App Engine launched in April and made it easy for us to do this! As a result, we're pleased to release this tool, now called Google Moderator, on Google App Engine. Google Moderator is available now and is free to use. To get started go to and sign in to your Google Account.

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