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Wakanda Entry Point

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Greg write in Wakanda forum, how to get started wakanda

Getting started tips for the complete newbie

Here are my highly opinionated thoughts of good starting steps if you are just discovering Wakanda and don’t have an extensive professional programming background. I encourage other members of the forum to put in their thoughts as well.
Start with many simple test applications. Don’t plan on taking over the universe with your first app or two. Take the time to make some boring sample applications. A simple address book, a personal journal, a product catalog… the typical stuff. Try not to get weighed down in super complex data models and techniques immediately. Learn the basics of CRUD (not the built in stuff on grids, the stuff made with custom code).
Understand the basics (at least) of javascript. Wakanda uses javascript everywhere (duh!)… don’t just rely on what you see in the Wakanda docs to learn javascript. Take some time and learn about javascript because then you will understand the why of Wakanda code. Also, learn some JQuery seeing as you can access this functionality from anywhere in Wakanda client side code.
Remember to always think in terms of server or client. The code is somewhat similar, but not exactly the same in some cases. This makes it even more likely that you will try to write client (browser) code inside a server script. Save some hair pulling and always be attentive to where the script you are writing will be run.
Learn to debug. The best way to learn what code is doing is by watching it step by step. Learn what debugger; is, learn how to use breakpoints and learn how to set variable watchers. Get Firefox and firebug installed. Chrome developer tools are pretty good, but Firebug is the leader for a reason.
Be prepared to fail for a little while. If you have some experience in programming, give it a good solid 20 hrs of coding before you make judgement calls. If you’re newer to programming, make that like 120 hrs… minimum.
Read the summary type documentation entries. Don’t get muddled down in code problems early on… at the time I posted this there was a “Discover Wakanda” section. These are more narrative rather than specific, but it gives you the flavour of what is possible.
Breeze through the client and server API docs. This is the best way to get a glimpse at what you can and can’t do. Remember, you have two additional tools you can utilize that are very powerful: javascript itself and JQuery.
Learn to use version control software. Personally, I use Git. In a nutshell, this allows you to save incremental steps in your project. Save often so when you make a big mistake, or something screws up, you can rewind in smaller steps. Yes, I wrote this before the step about starting a first significant project on PURPOSE!! Don’t cry to me if you spend 3 weeks on something and then you’re up the creek because something happened! Maybe by the time you read this it’s already built into Wakanda.
Try to learn to do things the Wakanda Way first. Don’t always move to JQuery because that is where you’re comfortable. Consider JQuery as a plugin… if you stick to the Wakanda way, you won’t (hopefully) break things down the road… where as we’ve all worked with a plugin that ceases to exist or has slow support, not fun and you have no control.
Start playing with better layouts. Sure absolute positioning can work, but try making a layout that works for many different sizes of browser windows. Build a fairly detailed constraint based layout. Learn how to work with external CSS sheets. Do not modify Wakanda’s generated CSS files… the ones named the same as the HTML file for instance. Extend them with an external file.
Start a real project. Yes, one you want to make money with or change the world with. You will likely find yourself starting from scratch down the road when you are wiser… but what the hell… just go for it! Get into funky models, test the capacity of relations, learn web components and web workers. Learn how to intelligently organize a larger app. Break out your functions into a javascript file rather than burying it all in buttons and model events alone. In essence, try to build something that won’t resemble one of Italy’s finest spaghetti dishes after a few months of work.
Contribute to the community. I am not writing this for the good of my health, I am writing this because I want to help build a community that will support me on my darkest Wakanda days. Don’t only ask questions, try to answer someone elses, even if you are wrong… (but it’s probably polite to mention you are not 100% on the answer!). At the time of this writing I have not been asked for a penny for the development Studio or other parts of the platform… so be polite when asking for things. Once you pay someone money, that buys you the right to be a bit more “assertive” 😉 Wakanda is striving to work in an open source way which means it is your moral obligation to give back in whatever way you can.

Stick with it! If it’s this cool and fun now, just imagine what it will be in a year or two!

EDIT: Since I posted this, the Wakanda learning center has been launched. This resource is invaluable to you as a newbie… dive in and learn all you can! I recommend starting with the essentials.

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