Sunday, 2 November 2014

Trailhead - Interactive Force.com Developer Training

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One of the big announcements at the Dreamforce 14 Developer Keynote was Trailhead - interactive training for developers new to the platform or wanting to dig deeper.  Things at BrightGen are always a little hectic after Dreamforce, but as I’m now on a week’s vacation in beautiful North Norfolk I’ve finally had some time to take a look at it.

Overview

Trailhead consists of Trails that cover aspects of the Salesforce1 platform.  At the time of writing (November 2014) there are three Trails - Getting Started with the Force.com Platform, Intro to Visual App Development and Intro to Programmatic Development. Trails comprise of Modules (key topics for the trail - so Intro to Programmatic Development, for example, has modules for Apex Triggers and Apex Testing), which are in turn made up of Units. A Unit introduces a specific concept, such as a Visualforce Standard Controllers or Apex Bulk triggers, which is explained in depth in conjunction with follow along exercises.

Gamification

Most units finish with a challenge - an exercise to be completed in your developer edition which is then verified by the Trailhead system. You give Trailhead access to your developer edition as a connected application and grant access via oauth - this is the kind of functionality I’m always keen to see in these kind of systems, as it means it is able to scale without detracting from the user experience by making people wait to have their exercises assessed.  

Successful completion of a challenge gains you points, and once all units in a module have been completed you are awarded a badge. These appear on your Salesforce Developers profile page, gaining you bragging rights and displaying your expertise to potential employers.

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So What’s it Like?

First off, its probably worth saying that the current Trailhead content isn’t really targeted at the likes of me - its more for people getting started with the area of the platform covered by the module.  That said, its important to me that I go through everything in detail, so that I can identify what the benefits are for our customers and staff.

In short, Trailhead is awesome. I wish there had been something like this available when I started out the with platform a shade over 6 years ago - I’d have been productive in an even shorter time (although at the time I’d have been skeptical that was possible!). At BrightGen we specialise in taking developers from .Net/Java and cross training them onto Salesforce and Trailhead will allow us to give them a flying start.

TIL

  • Follow the instructions to use a new developer edition - some challenges are documented as not possible with a namespace, but at least one other fails as well!
  • The Import Wizard really doesn’t like CSV files from a Mac - I tried everything I could think of to no avail, so I ended up cheating and loading the data using Jitterbit. It shows how long its been since I used the Import Wizard, as I’ve been on a Mac for around 3 years now!
    Update 04/11/2014 : this appears to have been a temporary problem - I’ve since been able to process the file in the same dev org via multiple browsers. If you encounter the same error try waiting a day or two!
  • The related resources are well worth a read before the challenge - they’ll cover the additional features that you need to use.
  • If you get the message ‘there was an error checking the challenge’, just try again - this never happened twice in a row for me.
  • If you switch to a  new developer edition part way through (because you didn’t follow the instructions and sign up for a new one, for example!), make sure to load any data from previous exercises, as a later challenge may rely on accessing it
  • If a challenge says it is relying on a specific number of records satisfying a set of criteria, make sure there are exactly that number.  I had one additional record and the challenge failed.
    Update 04/11/2014 : I’ve retested this in another developer edition and it is now working as expected.  Most odd as this failed easily 10 times in a row over the weekend until I deleted the additional record and then it worked first time.  Coincidence or magic?
  • Flow has come on a fair bit since I last used it.

In Conclusion

What are you waiting for?  Trailhead is a great way to learn so get started!

One More Thing

Don’t forget its Meet the BrightGen Team at Salesforce Tower on November 12th - we’ll have pizza, beer and some experts to chat with, so make sure to signup now to avoid disappointment.

3 comments:

  1. Hi Bob

    Thanks for such a nice and elaborate introduction. I am always confused by the point system of developerforce. I have completed all the challenges and courses. My total point is 12100 . Where I can see that you have earned much more than that. Here is my profile: https://developer.salesforce.com/forums/ForumsTrailheadProfile?userId=005F0000003FmtnIAC. Is there anything you did that I didn't. :(

    --Akram

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    1. The points awards were over generous in the early days - you used to get 500 just for reading an article. That has all been adjusted now so the maximum is 12100. Don't worry - my score has been adjusted down now as well.

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