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Deploy a cute LimeSurvey instance in Wikimedia Italia's infrastructure - aka no Google Form or Qualtrics please :)
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Today in a Wikimania 2021 talk page I've tried to write down some reasons against Google Form (but also other stuff as well) plus additional notes in the Wikimedia Forum, both on Meta-wiki.

Some of these discussions against Google Form and similar proprietary tools:

Having said that, even if the problem could be well described, and even if solutions exist (also thanks to our volunteers) it's difficult to help: it's damn easy to diffuse a Google Form but it's damn hard to stop one without a good ready-for-use alternative.

In short, while trying to stop this trend at least by giving greater awareness of the problems ad described in the above discussions, we can try to be pro-active and to play ahead and provide sustainable and credible and simple technologies to everyone.

It seems that the Wikimedia Foundation tried to adopt the free software LimeSurvey in T109606: Re-evaluate Limesurvey but they failed because ~5 years ago LimeSurvey had serious security issues and they already had a contract with a proprietary solution called Qualtrics and as far as I understood they were (sic) happy with that.

In short this Task is related to the infrastructure of Wikimedia Italia. Because maybe WMI has more operating margin to quickly deploy a pilot solution and find out how it ends.

Having said that I noticed that nextCloud Forms and QuickSurvey are also nice candidates but LimeSurvey is really much more complete and advanced from a lot of points of view (multilingualism, accessibility, responsiveness, completeness of question types, settings, etc.).

Some years ago I saw LimeSurvey adopted in the Politecnico di Torino (source), also in use by the municipality of Torino, to do the most absurd questionnaires (some of them lasted up to 45 minutes (!) like a kind of competition to see who wastes more time and where everyone wins). This gives me the idea that, from a security point of view, it is not stupid to try to install a recent version of LimeSurvey.

Then I was able to further explore the LimeSurvey backend during the surveys for the 2020 Italian wiki conference online. I and my friend @Ferdi2005 were somehow really satisfied by this tool that now we would like to install it on any toaster.


Proposed solution

In short this Task is about toasting ehm installing LimeSurvey in the wmi-fabula webserver owned by Wikimedia Italia.

The related documentation will live here:

There was this (actually private - apologies) discussion to pick as cute sub-domain:

We can try to make WMI-LimeSurvey available to all applicants for purposes related to Wikimedia projects, possibly by tracking ideas and not people, for example by collecting feedback and not personal data, unless of course it is the registration form for some live event, or a list of Santa Claus etc.

To avoid to stop the project after a while, to ensure a certain turnover, it could be useful to do regular trainings, starting at least by some of the staff of Wikimedia Italia.

Let's hack with our GForm-killer ehm LimeSurvey.

Technical documentation

Here some technical stuff about our application:

Server intervention

This was less or more the intervention in the server to deploy the application:

$ ssh
$ sudo -i

$ mkdir /var/www/limesurvey
$ cd    /var/www/limesurvey

# Download LimeSurvey Community Edition stable version
$ wget

$ md5sum 

$ sha1sum 

# get rid of temporary stuff
$ rm limesurvey*.zip

# give an useful name
$ mv limesurvey limesurvey-3.25.13

# create a symbolic link to simplify updates
$ ln --symbolic limesurvey-3.25.13 production

# create a dedicated user for the PHP-FPM daemon
$ adduser apache-limesurvey

# harden the installation with a dedicated directory for PHP sessions
$ mkdir -p /var/www/limesurvey/session

# allow to write SOME directories
$ cd production
$ chown -R apache-limesurvey: application/config upload tmp /var/www/limesurvey/session

# enable the http:// virtualhost
$ cd /etc/httpd/conf.d/sites-enabled
$ ln -s ../sites-available/it-wikimedia-survey-txt.conf
$ apachectl configtest
$ apachectl graceful

# deploy a Let's Encrypt certificate
$ certbot certonly --webroot --webroot-path=/var/www/limesurvey/production -d
Saving debug log to /var/log/letsencrypt/letsencrypt.log
Plugins selected: Authenticator webroot, Installer None
Starting new HTTPS connection (1):
Obtaining a new certificate
Performing the following challenges:
http-01 challenge for
Using the webroot path /var/www/limesurvey/production for all unmatched domains.
Waiting for verification...
Cleaning up challenges

 - Congratulations! Your certificate and chain have been saved at:
   Your key file has been saved at:
   Your cert will expire on 2021-05-17. To obtain a new or tweaked
   version of this certificate in the future, simply run certbot
   again. To non-interactively renew *all* of your certificates, run
   "certbot renew"
 - If you like Certbot, please consider supporting our work by:

   Donating to ISRG / Let's Encrypt:
   Donating to EFF:          

# enable the https:// virtualhost
$ ln -s ../sites-available/it-wikimedia-survey-ssl.conf
$ apachectl configtest
$ apachectl graceful

# install missing dependencies
$ yum install rh-php73-php-imap

Then created a dedicated database:

$ CREATE DATABASE         limesurvey;
$ CREATE USER             limesurvey@localhost IDENTIFIED BY '<omissis asd>';
$ GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON limesurvey.*         TO limesurvey@localhost;

See also the related commits in rWIIN wikimedia-it-wmit-infrastructure attached to this Task.

Event Timeline

valerio.bozzolan updated the task description. (Show Details)
valerio.bozzolan renamed this task from Deploy a cute LimeSurvey instance for Wikimedia Italia - aka no Google Form or Qualtrics please :) to Deploy a cute LimeSurvey instance in Wikimedia Italia's infrastructure - aka no Google Form or Qualtrics please :).Feb 16 2021, 2:45 AM

(I forgot to mention that I can help in deploying this after work, maybe this late evening.)

Just to mention that I was in contact with Elfego Solares from WMF in these hours to help Wikimania 2021 in dropping Google Form and adopting our WMI LimeSurvey 🚀

Elfego was very kind with me and he seemed satisfied with this tool and by our work and he will publish the survey soon I think.