moderated From another list-serv: Replace yourself with MAUDERATOR, a civility bot for online communication

Jennifer Christian

Gary Greenberg, author of the email below, has an EXTREMELY dry sense of humor, and yet this is not a joke.  He has moderated the OEM list-serv of 3,000+ professional members since 1993 using an evolving series of technologies to do so.  He has been an “early adopter” of new stuff.  So he has decided to replace himself with a robot moderator – from Google.



Jennifer Christian




From: Gary Greenberg [mailto:gngreenberg@...]
Sent: Saturday, April 01, 2017 8:06 AM
Subject: Alert: Forum now under automatic supervision. Introducing Mauderator, a civility bot for online communication


​​April 1, 2017


My continuous, single-sourced operation of the Occ-Env-Med-L forum since November 1993 is ending, and ongoing management will be performed by a robot. 


Our forum is generally a well-functioning community, distributing professional content among its nearly 3,000 readers without palpable oversight. Occasions do arise when internet 'troll' behavior is spotted, and a message (or an errant thread) needs restraint or interruption.


An internet troll is defined (in 2002!) as:

One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.


Most readers recognize these entirely non-mythical creatures, but prior rule-based efforts have failed to protect this forum (and almost ALL internet-open discussion groups) from misuse, agitation and even scandal.


Prior criteria were based on a few simple patterns:

  • Messages introduced with subject lines in ALL-CAPS
  • Commercial speech with excessive "best", latest and most-amazing claims (Some claim spammers and trolls are different genera, and our community has seen both).
  • Replies with excessive punctuation, especially exclamation points (known as the Law of Exclamation)
  • Discussion threads which spiral to reach specific thresholds:
      • if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler.
    • Echo-speech
      • passionate threads tend to lose the number of participants as the agitation of its residual discussants climbs

The need for powerful non-rule-based message-filtering in online messaging is clear. Political and cultural polarization has damaged (perhaps beyond rescue) the utility of comment sections of web-based publications. Readers of the New York Times or NPR online will find that even erudite journalism triggers passionate and abusive commentary.


A new Google-sourced technology is being developed. "Inside Google’s Internet Justice League and Its AI-Powered War On Trolls" was a recent Wired magazine article introducing an evolving artificial intelligence tool developed to recognize, flag and block abusive messaging. Jigsaw (Google's internal idea-incubator) has developed Conversation AI, a machine-learning engine to abstractly analyze potentially toxic speech. 


 Mauderator (avatar shown here) is an early implementation of the Jigsaw tool, taking over as the new AI manager for Occ-Env-Med-L, our forum. "She" will assess the utility of incoming messages, the civility of ongoing discussions and adherence to the forum's rules for broadcast messages. Readers should soon notice improved quality and consistency of the distributed content.


As Moderator Emeritus, I plan to remain active in Occupational & Environmental Medicine in a real-world partnership with Dr. Achmed Envel. Our practice will consist entirely of fine-judgement determinations regarding FMCSA cases and borderline assessments regarding MRO complexity. More clinical consults will target contested attribution for patients with subjective-only illness and complex motivations. The gratification of these challenges will surely outweigh any loss of stimulation from evaluating OEM-L messages and alerts.


Thank you to the readership and supporters who have made this opportunity a reality.




- Gary Greenberg



Gary Greenberg, MD MPH

Sysop / Moderator Occ-Env-Med-L MailList
UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health

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Med. Director, Urban Ministries of Wake Co. Open Door Clinic

"Renewing lives, restoring hope"

Jennifer Christian

Yes, I am stunningly gullible.   I just noticed the date on Gary's message.  Oh, dear.  I was had.  And if you believed my posting, so were you. 

Embarrassed at yet again falling for an April Fool's trick.  When my son told me the word "gullible" wasn't in the dictionary, I reached over to pull the book off the shelf and check. 



I would prefer you as "stunningly gullible" rather than "cynically jaundiced" ;-)