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'Google Moderator' tool takes on lecture-hall chaos

Created by a Google engineer who wanted to make it easier for panel audiences to ask questions, the internal tool has now been released to the public.

When I was at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York last week, many of the panelists and speakers invited the audience to ask them questions by submitting Twitter messages. A Google engineer named Taliver Heath has gone one step further by creating Google Moderator, an application that lets the audiences at lectures and discussions submit questions and vote on the ones they'd like to hear answered.

Google Moderator, earlier named "Dory" after the inquisitive fish from Finding Nemo, started out as an internal tool. It was originally intended for the audiences at Google's "Tech Talks" series, then was extended to company all-hands meetings and other lectures at the company's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters.

"There was never enough time for all the questions, and it wasn't clear that the best questions were the ones actually getting asked," Heath wrote in a blog post. "And since many of these talks were led by offices outside of Mountain View, it became harder for distributed audiences to participate."

After a few requests, Google has now released Moderator to the general public as part of its Google App Engine platform, and it's now available for free use. I'll start by asking a question about Moderator: What if audiences are too busy reading and voting on question submissions to actually listen?