Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

How to use Google Moderator to crowdsource your questions (almost)

Crowdsourcing describes the act of outsourcing a task to an undefined, generally large group of people, in the form of an open call.  Moderator is a new tool from Google that facilitates this practice by posing your question to the entirety a select portion of the Internet … almost.

What do I mean by almost? Glad you asked

First, let’s go ahead and pose the question “What about Church Website design drives you batty?” as part of a topic that includes good examples of bad design which in turn is part of a larger series of questions on Church Website Design … documenting the steps in the process along the way.

  1. First we login using our gMail account – sorry no screenshots of passwords today kids.
  2. Then we click the “Create Series” button conveniently located near the sign in prompt – both towards the upper left of your browser screen.
  3. Fill in the form to create the series keeping in mind that what you’re doing is entering the title, description and ownership that will categorize and/or group one more questions we want crowdsourced.

    NOTE – only OWNERS, identified by email can post a response to your questions – so I’ll add more later when I get things all-the-way figured out.
  4. Now change the top description from “Questions” to something else:

    in this case “good examples of bad design.
  5. Now write in your question:

    in this case “What about Church Website design drives you batty?.
  6. Then it’s a matter of sitting back and allowing others to vote you on or off the Island, that is:

    Questions on the Google Moderator page are automatically ranked based on how many positive votes they have. If a question has 100 total votes of which 50 are positive and 50 are negative votes, it will be ranked lower than a question with 90 total votes, of which 85 are positive and only 5 are negative.
  7. Goto TinyURL and create a link (to the series, topic) you can hand-out:

    In this case http://tinyurl.com/mod-church-website-design.

What’s next? Glad you asked … confusion.

Perhaps it’s just me and my 25 years experience – that includes working for a Wall Street concern in October of 2007 – but I’m thinking Moderator is not quite ready for prime time. Here are some questions and points where things break down for me:

  • Step 3 – The ownership thing is tricky, it is how you invite others to “post a response” – otherwise all they can do is post a question. At least provide a mechanism whereby others can request to be “owners”; though I think it might be more useful if Moderator had a role of “participant.”
  • Step 3a – Again – why can’t I use my current Google Address book to add owners?
  • Step 4 – The topic description thing, meaning without knowing there is a hierarchy of Series->Topic->Questions, then the default “Questions” for the Topic is quite confusing.
  • Step 6 – How do I share this question with you? That I had to goto TinyURL bugs the mess outta me. Okay, so if I make you an owner – you get notified – still, I dunno this bugs me.
  • Step 6a – Also – I’m not entirely clear as to the utility of usinga “digg like” voting system for the questions as it makes more sense to me to rate and rank the answers!
  • Step 6b – BBS – that is, if responses are limited to my circle of friends, why not just skip all the hassle and employ bulletin board like services via Drupal and/or phpBB? At least they have notifications and RSS already built in. Search too.
  • Step 7 – Yeah, I know, there is no step 7 above, but it would be nice in a day an age of syndication if there were an RSS, or since this is Google, an ATOM feed to keep me posted of updates.
  • Help – yeah, the online help, or should I say FAQ, is a bit hard to find in context of what you’re trying to do. Don’t make me hunt for it, I may never come back!
  • Responses – so wait, I can let strangers vote, but I can’t let them enter responses? Sorta takes the crowd out of crowdsourcing don’t ya think? How about making uninvited responses “pending approval?”
  • Search? – as part of Google, I’m thinking that it might be useful to better employ said engine to find series, topics and questions of interests … perhaps with it of mind-mapping thrown in?

Bottom line?

Google Moderator truly earns it’s “Beta” moniker in its current incarnation, offering moderately utility for “crowdsourcing” for individuals wishing for limited results from a limited audience.

That and I’m not so sure my almost 80 year old mom could make sense of this system – nor would many senior church members I suspect.

Hopefully in time it’ll work out the above kinks and we can create a truly usable and collaborative crowdsourcing tool that doesn’t dissolve into a BBS-like magnet for trolls, nere-do-wells and spammers.


  1. I think you perhaps misunderstand the purpose of Moderator. The purpose of this tool is not to get answers to questions. That’s why the response process is complicated. The purpose is one simple thing. To allow a crowd to rank the questions you want to ask, or to pose questions they want you to deal with, and then vote them up or down. So, for a church use, asking “What bothers you about church web design?” isn’t really the best use of the tool. A better option would be for a pastor to ask the congregation to post questions they want answered in upcoming sermons, and then for the congregation to get to vote on all thee questions posed, so the pastor could quickly gauge what topics are most interesting or relevant to the audience.

  2. While Moderator is a great tool, it has some serious limitations to successfully polling a large crowd. I ran my first project with Moderator and while I was able to get people to submit an idea and vote on existing ideas on their first visit, I wasn’t able to keep them coming back. I polled a few of the people who used the tool and they noted that the lack of email notifications sent out to the community when a new idea is submitted or modified was a turn off. People also wanted to know when users voted on their ideas. Maybe if they add this feature, it may be a little more usable. I’m still looking for a great tool though if anyone has any suggestions.