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Developing an Experiment
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Interactive Development

This contribution comes from one of our users, and has been modified to fit your screen. Thank you @tylerburleigh!

This page contains recipes for forking an expfactory task and preparing it for an easier development workflow. For example, maybe you want to run a Stroop task, but you want to increase the number of trials, or change the instructions text. You can also take a base task and use that to create something entirely new! Because many cognitive paradigms follow similar procedures, this can really speed up the development time.

Checklist

To begin, you will need:

  • A Linux server with Docker installed, or your own computer if you run Linux.
  • An expfactory task that you want to use as your base, to fork.
    (Take a look at the library of tasks.)
  • The ability to SSH into the web server (this is how we access the terminal/console to do stuff; I use PuTTY)

I like to use DigitalOcean for my web servers, and for this tutorial I'll be forking the kirby task. My linux user is bitnami, so you will also be seeing that in the code below.

Recipes

Set shell variables

First we'll set some shell variables to make the other recipes more streamlined. HOME should point to the home directory for a user on your web server. Since I'm running as the bitnami user, I'll put it all there. TASK should refer to the task that you want to fork.

TASK=kirby
HOME=/home/bitnami

Make directories

Like me, for the sake of convenience you'll probably want to access the data and the logs from outside the Docker container. This doesn't impact the containerization. It just lets you access output from the experiment more easily once you have everything up and running.

mkdir -p $HOME/expfactory/$TASK
mkdir -p $HOME/expfactory/$TASK/data
mkdir -p $HOME/expfactory/$TASK/logs
chmod -R 777 $HOME/expfactory/$TASK/

Generate Dockerfile

Now we'll change to the task directory we created above and build the Dockerfile in that directory.

# go to directory
cd $HOME/expfactory/$TASK/

docker run -v $HOME/expfactory/$TASK:/data \
  vanessa/expfactory-builder \
  build $TASK

Depending on your Docker installation, you might need to use sudo with Docker. It's not recommended to install in this way, but the note is preserved here since the original post had used it.

Great! Now if you issue a dir command you will see the following folders/files: data Dockerfile logs startscript.sh

Build container

Next we'll build the docker container, using the Dockerfile we just created.

docker build -t expfactory/experiments .

Clone task files to host directory

Now, while we are developing the task, we want to make it as easy as possible to modify "on the fly", even while it is running in a container. To do this, first we must clone the task files from github to a local directory:

cd /home/bitnami
git clone https://github.com/expfactory-experiments/$TASK.git
chmod -R 777 $TASK
cd $TASK

You could imagine here that instead of cloning the repository with the task, you might have your own local folder you are using instead. We still recommend you put it under version control, and then perhaps contribute it to the library!

Run container

Now we run the container. When we run the container, we pass it all of the folders that we created before.

docker run -d \
   -d -p 80:80 \
   -v $HOME/expfactory/expfactory:/opt/expfactory \
   -v $HOME/expfactory/$TASK/data:/scif/data \
   -v $HOME/expfactory/$TASK/logs:/scif/logs \
   -v $HOME/$TASK:/scif/apps/$TASK \
   expfactory/experiments

Ready to go!

Now it should be up and running. By default, expfactory runs over port 80, so you should be able to access it by typing the URL of your server into a web browser.

Because of the configuration we've used in these recipes, the task files are served out of /home/$TASK on the host-side. This makes it really easy to work with during the development process. The file that you probably want to start hacking away at is /home/$TASK/experiment.js, and the data will be stored in $HOME/expfactory/$TASK/data. After you've modified the task, you can reload the site in your browser to see the changes live.

When you finally complete your task, you should make it official by contributing it to the library! Happy coding!