AutoMan Visual Debugger README

This repository is for the AutoMan Visual Debugger (AVD), a web interface designed to make debugging human-computational tasks easier.

What is the AutoMan Visual Debugger?

  • This repository houses the two components of AVD: a 1) plugin implementation (an embedded web server built on spray) and 2) a JavaScript web UI.
  • AVD is currently an alpha-quality research prototype.


It almost goes without saying that you need a few build tools installed on your machine first, but having left these unmentioned before, I have been burned by irate programmers who claim that my software is "broken". So, here we go. You need:

  1. Git (for AutoMan source)
  2. Mercurial (for AVD source)
  3. Simple Build Tool (aka SBT)

If you're on a Mac and you have Homebrew, all you need to do is type:

$ brew install git hg sbt

If you're not, see your local package manager documentation.

Using AVD

In order to use AVD, you need to list it as a library dependency in your code and startup AutoMan with AVD as a plugin. But before you do that, AVD should first be on your computer!

AVD will eventually be released as a JAR via Maven, which will simplify downloading and using it. Until then, you will need to checkout AVD and AutoMan from their source code repositories, compile, then package the JAR "locally". If your own code also uses SBT to manage the build, SBT is smart enough to check for the JAR locally to satisfy your program's dependency on AVD. Otherwise, look for the AutoMan and AVD JARs in your ~/.ivy directory.

Please ensure that code that depends on AVD uses the following library dependencies (version numbers below are subject to change!) in your build.sbt:

"edu.umass.cs.plasma" %% "automandebugger" % "0.1-SNAPSHOT"

You should probably also explicitly reference AutoMan:

"edu.umass.cs" %% "automan" % "0.5-SNAPSHOT"


  1. Checkout a copy of AutoMan: $ git clone
  2. $ cd AutoMan
  3. AutoMan presently needs the changes in the webdebugger branch: $ git checkout webdebugger
  4. $ sbt "project automan" publish-local
  5. $ cd ..
  6. $ hg clone ssh://
  7. $ cd automan-debugger
  8. $ sbt publish-local

Your own code may now use locally-published AutoMan and AVD JARs.


AutoMan ships with a small suite of test applications. We recommend using the SimpleProgram application to test AVD.

You can compile and run this application with a single command-line invocation. First, go to your AutoMan directory,

$ cd AutoMan

and then run the following:

$ sbt "project SimpleProgram" "run -k [your AWS key] -s [your AWS secret]"

where the arguments to -k and -s are your Mechanical Turk credentials.

Alternately, you can also set up SBT to use SimpleProgram in an interactive way:

$ cd AutoMan
$ sbt
[info] Loading project definition from AutoMan/project
[info] Set current project to default-cf9e20 (in build file:AutoMan/)
> project SimpleProgram
[info] Set current project to simple_program (in build file:AutoMan/)
> compile
... lots of [info] stuff! ...
> run -k [your AWS key] -s [your AWS secret]

Regrettably, there's no simple way to stop SBT from running your programs without also killing SBT itself, since SBT launches tasks in the same JVM instance that it itself is running in. Pressing CTRL-C will stop your program and also kill SBT. You'll just need to follow the steps above (again) if you want to run SimpleProgram again. If you find this to be truly annoying (as I do), either see this Stack Overflow post or run from within an IDE like IntelliJ IDEA.

By default, SimpleProgram runs against the MTurk requester sandbox.

You'll know that AVD was loaded successfully if AutoMan prints something like the following to the console:

[INFO] [12/03/2014 14:47:13.071] [] [akka://on-spray-can/user/IO-HTTP/listener-0] Bound to localhost/

You should now be able to use the debugger by visiting http://localhost:8080 in your web browser.

Note AutoMan stores answers that it receives automatically. This feature may complicate debugging. You can clear the saved-answer database by running:

sbt memo-clean

Also, the command available in the is also helpful for clearing HITs out of your account on MTurk's end of things, which is also a nice debugging aid. See that page for setup instructions.


You need to tell AutoMan to use the AVD plugin in your code. AutoMan requires a programmer to choose and initialize a "backend adapter" before calling human-computation functions. These adapters tell AutoMan how to communicate with crowdsourcing services like Mechanical Turk. You tell AutoMan that you'd like to use the AVD plugin during adapter initialization. For example,

val a = MTurkAdapter { mt =>
    mt.plugins = List(AutomanDebugger.plugin)
    mt.access_key_id = [your AWS key]
    mt.secret_access_key = [your AWS secret]

MTurkAdapter is a subclass of AutomanAdapter. All AutomanAdapters have a plugins field, for which you can supply a List[Plugin].

Note that, in addition to an import for the MTurkAdapter, you will need to import the AutomanDebugger:

import edu.umass.cs.automan.adapters.MTurk._
import edu.umass.cs.plasma.automandebugger.AutomanDebugger

Developer guidelines

Modifying AVD requires you to use the following procedure:

  1. Make a change in the AVD source code.
  2. Ensure that the change compiles (e.g., run sbt compile).
  3. Publish the changes locally: cd automan-debugger; sbt publish-local.
  4. Recompile and run your code. If you're using SimpleProgram as a test as above, you can just run the code again; SBT will pickup the new changes. Alternately, if you're using IntelliJ IDEA with the SBT and Scala plugins, you can just run your code again.


If you're not Bianca or Dan, send us a Pull Request.

Who do I talk to?

  • If you find bugs, please open an Issue in this repository.
  • AVD is currently maintained by Bianca Tamaskar, with some help from Daniel Barowy.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. CCF-1144520.