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Deploying Locally

You can deploy the tool locally on any device running Windows, Mac, or Linux operating systems, and using the following steps. To inexperienced users, this whole process should take under two hours.

You can find a video tutorial going through the whole process here:

Installing required software​

First, you will need to install the software required to deploy the study.

Visual Studio Code​

Download here.

Visual Studio Code is a code editor. You could do everything you need to do to set the tool up using a combination of a basic text editor (e.g., Notepad on Windows) and command-line interfaces (e.g., Command Prompt on Windows, Terminal on Mac/Linux), but Visual Studio Code makes everything significantly easier. You could also use any other dedicated code editing software of your choice in place of Visual Studio Code, such as such as Sublime Text or Atom, but Visual Studio Code is what this guide will focus on.

Node.js and npm​

Download here (installs both Node.js and npm together).

In the simplest of terms, Node.js is a way of running JavaScript outside of a web browser (i.e., locally) and npm (Node Package Manager) is a package manager which allows you to download, update, and manage the JavaScript functions and applications installed on your system.

If you have never installed these before, it is ideal that you download version 13.12.0, which you can do by going to this page and selecting the installer that is appropriate for your operating system (.msi files for Windows and .pkg files for Mac) and version of Windows (32- or 64-bit; see here to check which version you have). If you bought your computer in the last decade, you probably have a 64-bit version of Windows.

If you have a different version installed already, everything should still work fine and you do not have to specifically uninstall and then reinstall version 13.12.0.

Last, if you are on Windows, you will likely have to add node as a PATH environment variable on your device or else the commands for doing final tweaks on and deploying the tool may not work. You can watch a video on how to do this here.

If you are unable to do this, or the option to add to your PATH variables is not present, you may need to contact your IT or system administrator or write npm commands differently for some of the steps below.

MySQL Version 8.0.22​

Download here.

MySQL is widely-used database software, and is what the tool will use to store the conditions you create and the data they collect.

Use the Product Version dropdown box to choose version 8.0.22 and your operating system, and click download on either of the installers (they will both do the same job). Open the installer once you have downloaded it.

You may get a pop-up saying that you need to apply a Mandatory SQL Installer Upgrade; if you do, click Yes. You may also be asked to install a Microsoft Visual C++ 2019 Redistributable Package if you don't have it installed already, which you should also do.

During installation:

  • Choosing a Setup Type: Choose Server only.
  • Download: Click Execute.
  • Installation: Click Next.
  • Product Configuration: Click Next.
  • Type and Networking: Leave the defaults and click Next.
  • Authentication Method: Keep it on "Use Strong Password Encryption for Authentication (RECOMMENDED)" and click Next.
  • Accounts and Roles: Type in whatever you would like your MySQL Root Password to be (you also have to repeat it in the next Repeat Password field), copy it somewhere (you will need it later), and click Next.
  • Windows Service: Leave the defaults and click Next.
  • Apply Configuration: Click Execute. When done, click Finish.
  • Product Configuration: Click Next.
  • Installation Complete: Click Finish.

If you followed the steps above, you have successfully installed a local MySQL server and configured the database for the tool to hook into, and are ready to download and set up the tool's code.

Git and Bash​

Download here (installs both Git and Bash together).

Git is distributed version control software; essentially allowing for quick and efficient ways for multiple people to download, update, and upload files or just select parts of file, which makes it ideal for handling code. Bash is a command-line language which allows you to execute various commands on your device and run scripts. You can watch a short video on how to install Git here.

Downloading the code​

Second, you will need to download the code from the GitHub repository. There are two ways of doing this with different advantages, but they are functionally the same.

Option 1: Regular download and unzip​

Regularly downloading and unzipping the code is the fastest and easiest way to get the tool up and running, but will make updating your local versions more time consuming in the future because you'll have to repeat all of the steps from here onwards.

On the repository page, click the green Code download button, and select Download ZIP. Open the downloaded zip file and extract its contents, which should be a mocksocialmediawebsite-main folder containing the code for the tool. If you are on Windows and do not have a file extraction program, you can download 7-Zip.

Once this is extracted, open up Visual Studio Code. You should see a "Getting Started" document open in Visual Studio Code if this is your first time using it. Using the menu at the top, click File -> Open Folder... and open the mocksocialmediawebsite-main folder. Once this is done, you are ready to proceed to the next step.

Option 2: Clone the GitHub repository​

Cloning the GitHub repository using Git is more complicated and takes more time, but makes it painless to update in the future when the source code is updated (e.g., with bugfixes or new features). If you encounter difficulties, you can read more about the process of cloning GitHub repositories here.

First, create a folder on your device where you want the tool to be downloaded to. It doesn't matter what it is called, but to make going through this guide easier, name it mocksocialmediawebsite-main.

Once you have Git installed and your folder created, open up Visual Studio Code. You should see a "Getting Started" document open in Visual Studio Code if this is your first time using it. Using the menu at the top, click File -> Open Folder... and open the folder that you just created.

With this folder open in Visual Studio Code, you will need to open a Git Bash terminal. If there isn't already a panel open on the bottom of the screen with "Terminal" active, using the menu at the top of the window, click Terminal -> New Terminal.

A panel should now open on the bottom of the screen, with the Terminal tab active (other tabs should say Problems, Output, and Debug Console). The default terminal that is open is likely not the kind we need, so we will need to open a Git Bash terminal. On the top right of the bottom panel, there should be a dropdown box, which allows you to switch between your active terminals, with a plus button with an arrow next to it. Click the arrow next to the plus button and then click Git Bash to open a Git Bash terminal.

Now, on the repository page, click the green Code download button, then click HTTPS at the top of the panel that opens up and click the copy button next to the URL, which should look like a clipboard. Next, in your open git bash terminal, type git clone followed by a space and the repository URL that you just copied. The full command that you typed in should look something like this: git clone Hit Enter on your keyboard, and the code should download into the folder you opened. You will know it has downloaded properly if the Explorer panel on the left side of Visual Studio Code populates with different files and folders and the terminal panel gives you a "done" message for unpacking objects.

You now have downloaded the core files you need for the tool, which you just need to make some slight changes to before deploying.

Final tweaks​

Third, before we turn the tool on, there are some final modifications and small things we need to do before the tool will work locally. Much of this is done through the Explorer panel on the left side of the screen in Visual Studio Code. Here, you will see all of the folders and files for the tool within the mocksocialmediawebsite-main folder. Folders have little arrows next of them which allow you to expand or collapse their contents.

Increase the maximum packet size​

Before we jump into Visual Studio Code, however, we will need to increase the default maximum of information that can be transmitted to and from the server at any given time from 4MB to 20MB. This makes it easier to upload media associated with your posts and prevents issues with participants uploading files larger than 4MB (e.g., large photos, videos).

How you do this is by modifying the my.ini file that is created once MySQL is installed on your computer. The default location for this file for Windows installs is C:\ProgramData\MySQL\MySQL Server 8.0\my.ini. You can open this file using Notepad (Windows), TextEdit (Mac), or any code editing software. If you are on Windows, you may not be able to edit this file unless you are are opening it as an administrator. To do this, you can hit the Windows, search for Notepad, right-click it in the start menu, and run as administrator. Then, in Notepad, open the file by navigating to its location and displaying All files (.) instead of just text documents when you are in the folder.

Once the my.ini file is open, scroll down until you see where it says max_allowed_packet=4M and change it to max_allowed_packet=20M. Save the file.

Next, you need to restart the MySQL service. On Windows, you can do this by hitting Windows + R and typing services.msc into the Run window that opens up and clicking OK. In the services panel, scroll down and select MySQL80, then click Stop the service, followed by Start the service. On Mac, go into your System Preferences and you should see MySQL at the bottom of the page. Upon clicking it, you are taken to a page where, on the right, you have a button to stop and then start the MySQL service again.

Create the db folder​

Right- (or if on Mac, Option-) click the backend folder and click New Folder. Name this folder db.

Remove code from the package.json file (Windows only)​

If you are on Windows, in the Explorer panel on the left side of the screen, you will need to open up the package.json file in the backend folder. When you click this file, it should open up as a tab in the main panel. Under "scripts", find the line that starts with "local-dev":. Here, you will need to delete the npm run clean-db && from the values in the quotes, including the space after the &&. What the value on this line should look like is "local-dev": "npm run copy-dev-config && npm run watch:webpack-build-dev". Once you have done this, press Ctrl + S to save the package.json file.

In the backend folder, there is also a file called config-development.json that you should click on and open. You will need to add values to all of these fields (in the quotes after the colons) for the website to work.

  • database
    • name can be anything you want it to be without any spaces.
    • username needs to be root.
    • password needs to be the password you created when installing MySQL.
    • host needs to be localhost.
    • port can be any value you choose, but we recommend you use the default of 3306.
    • dialect needs to be mysql.

Below this, you can specify as many researcher accounts as you would like, using the following format, and including no spaces:

  "adminCredentials": [
"username": "researcher1",
"password": "password1"
"username": "researcher2",
"password": "password2"
"username": "researcher3",
"password": "password3"

Install dependencies​

Next, right-click the backend folder and click Open in Integrated Terminal. What this will do is open a Terminal panel at the bottom of the screen that is ready for you to input commands. In the opened terminal, type npm install and hit Enter. Repeat this npm installing process for for the frontend folder. You can switch between these open terminals using the dropdown at the top-right of the Terminal panel, which is helpful to know for deploying the tool.

If you could not add node to your path variable when installing and are getting errors​

You will need to replace the npm in the command with the pathway to the location of the npm executable that was installed on your device, surrounded by single quotes. The default for this is 'C:\Program Files\nodejs\npm'. So, to run npm install, you would instead type 'C:\Program Files\nodejs\npm' install.

You should now have the local file configuration ready to deploy the tool locally and turn it on and off whenever you wish. You will not need to repeat any of the steps above again when you want to turn on or off the tool.


Deploying the study requires turning on the backend (i.e., the parts of the website that interface with the database) and frontend of the website (i.e., the parts of the website you can see and interact with) one-by-one. It does not matter which order you do this in, but both need to be done for you to be able to use the tool.

Once turned on for the first time, your data will remain in the database even after you turn it off. So when you turn the tool on again, your conditions and data should all still be there.

Turning on the backend​

Open a new Bash terminal using the arrow next to the plus button in the Terminal panel. In it, type cd backend/ and hit Enter. Now, your terminal has navigated from the main folder to the backend folder. Next, type npm run local-dev and hit Enter. You will know that it is sucessfully turned on when you see the terminal output Server is running on port 8081..

If you could not add node to your path variable when installing and are getting errors​

You will need to install Cygwin. When installing, keep the default options on the setup page where you have to select packages and click next. Once this is installed, you will need to open new Bash terminals using the arrow next to the plus button in the Terminal panel for each of the backend and frontend. Once you do, in each of these terminals, you will need to navigate to the respective frontend and backend folders. A template format for the command you need to input to navigate to the folders is /cygdrive/c/Folder\ Name/Second\ Folder\ Name/mocksocialmediawebsite-main/backend where it must start with /cygdrive/, and the remainder of the path is simply the path to your folder, but with a backslash in front of spaces in any folder names.

Turning on the frontend​

Similar to turning on the backend, you will need to navigate into the frontend by opening a new Bash terminal and typing in cd frontend/ and hit Enter. Now that you have navigated into the frontend folder, type npm run start-dev and hit Enter. Before it is completely done turning on, https://localhost:8080/ - the location of the tool - will open up in your default browser, even though it is not done turning on and building the frontend. In the meantime, return to Visual Studio Code, where you will know the frontend is done turning on when you see the terminal output i ï½¢wdmï½£: Compiled successfully..


Congratulations, your tool is live at http://localhost:8080/ ! The tool is deployed via your browser, but exists entirely locally on your device. You can now go to http://localhost:8080/admin and log in using the username and password of an admin/researcher account that you set up.

You can change what these credentials are, or how many administrator accounts there are, by clicking, modifying, and then saving (by pressing Ctrl + S) the config-development.json file in backend folder in Visual Studio Code.

The backend and frontend will continue to run as long as you have these terminals open and do not turn off the tool, and all of the condition data should remain, even after you turn off the tool, for the next time you turn it back on.

Turning off the tool​

To deactivate the backend and/or the frontend, press Ctrl + C on your keyboard in their respective terminals. It is good practice to deactivate each when you are done collecting participants in a session so that they are not taking up unnecessary resources on your device. However, when you turn off either, your conditions and data are unaffected and should all still be there.

Updating the code​

To update the tool in the future, you again have two options based on which option you chose when downloading the code earlier. It is recommended that you save all the study data prior to updating the code, as changes could affect your ability to access the database database.

Option 1: Redownload, unzip, and overwrite​

The first option is to return to the GitHub repository and redownload the code in a zip file and overwrite the existing files on your computer when extracting it. This may overwrite some of the files you have modified to set up the tool, however, such as the package.json and config-development.json files. What you can do is copy those elsewhere before overwriting, and then copy (and overwrite) them back to their original locations after you have updated to avoid inputting all of the same information again.

Option 2: Git pull​

The easier and less error-prone way of updating if you downloaded the files using Option 2 above is to open a Bash terminal in the mocksocialmediawebsite-main folder (should be the default folder if you use the arrow next to the plus icon in the Terminal panel) and input the following command: git pull This will automatically update all of the files that need updating, but, like Option 1 above, may overwrite files you have modified in earlier steps, so you can save the package.json and config-development.json files elsewhere before updating, then copy (and overwrite) the updated files after you have updated to avoid inputting all of the same information again.

Wherever possible, it is important that you are always using the latest version of the code, which will always coincide with updated documentation on this website.

If you're having issues, you can learn more about the git pull and related commands here.