Synchronous Online Experiments Workshop

General Information


The experimental method is the most powerful tool to unveil causal mechanisms in human behavior. Over the past fifty years, experimental research in economics, sociology and psychology have been mainly conducted in university labs, with a restricted subject pool, and a limited number of participants per treatment. However, the rapid development of Internet-related technologies makes now possible to break up such traditional limitations. Scaling up social science research to the Internet level is now at reach, and an increasing number of social scientists is making use of online experiments to study group interactions.


In this workshop, participants will learn how to set up a simple synchronous online experiment using the open-source tool nodeGame. NodeGame allows one to run experiments with large groups for a long periods of time, permitting the observation of the formation of macro-patterns of behavior from the interaction of a large number of individuals.

Before being introduced to the software, participants—who are expected to share an heterogeneous background—will receive a quick overview of the experimental method in the social science, and will be presented a selected a set of classic and modern experiments, executed both in the lab and online. While presenting these experiments, special attention will be given to connections with the nodeGame platform.


By the end of the workshop, participants will: (i) have a basic understanding of social experiments; (ii) be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the nodeGame platform; (ii) be able to deploy a simple experiment with nodeGame.


The format will be adjusted depending on the actual number of participants, and their background (e.g., more social scientists vs more computer scientists). Tentatively, the workshop will be divided in two main modules: theory + application.

Module 1: Theory (30-45m)

In this module, participants will get familiar with the experimental method, the differences between lab and online experiments.

Keywords: history, designs, randomization, stratification, validity, labs, games, WEIRD, examples, challenges, dropouts, recruiting, platforms, AMT.

Module 2: Application (2h 15-30min)

In this module, participants will get familiar with the JavaScript/Node.JS language, and learn how to implement their own online experiment with the nodeGame platform. The following submodules will be taught:
Quick Intro to JavaScript and Node.JS
Origin, differences from other languages, Node.js and NPM, Javascript ECMAScript5 mainly, pointers to ECMAScripts6, JavaScript consoles and debugging.
Hands-on Session with nodeGame
Install and run the nodeGame platform, get familiar with the interface, understanding how to get help, how to add and modify games and settings, play an online experiments together.
Realize Your Own Game (Optional)
More advanced participants who wish to develop their own game can be assisted to pursue their particular goals.


Most of the technical material can be found on the online wiki. Slides deck of the workshop.
Synchronous Online Experiments with NodeGame


There are no strict pre-requirements, however prior knowledge of computer programming will be helpful. The FAQ page does a pretty good job at explaining what to expect.

Participants are encouraged to bring their own laptops to run code examples, join online games and program their own experiments.