First Steps Learning Django: PyPlanet Article Sharer App

Posted by Bob on Mon 17 July 2017 in Django • 4 min read

In this post I share my first steps exploring Django. I created PyPlanet Article Sharer Django App to make it easier for us to share new Planet Python feed articles. It loads in new articles and generates tweet links. It lets us mark each entry as Shared or Skipped. I am sure this will facilitate our Twitter activity and News Digests. This is our first project of our 100 days of Django and our very first Django app overall!

The app

Homepage:

pyplanet-django1.png

Click on an article and click "Mark Skipped":

pyplanet-django2.png

Redirects back to index and shows (CSS) article marked as skipped:

pyplanet-django3.png

Another article:

pyplanet-django4.png

Tweet it and mark it complete (still 2 steps):

pyplanet-django5.png

Index now shows a skipped and a shared article:

pyplanet-django6.png

Try it yourself

I made a README with instructions to run this project yourself.

As stated in the README some things still need to be done:

  • Deploy to Heroku or PythonAnywhere.

  • Add importfeed command to a daily cronjob.

  • Add user authentication and tracking who (Julian / myself) edits what. I did already manage to setup a ForeignKey relation to the existing (admin) User table - Django comes with batteries included.

  • Would be nice: integrate Twitter API so green "Mark Shared" button can be made redundant (could not find callback in Twitter's intent link, so Tweet + "Mark complete" are two steps now). Of course this requires the app to be behind a login.

Learning

  • Although this is a relatively simple app it touches on a lot of Django aspects: DB, ORM, migrations, views, templates, url routes, even a custom django-admin command I wrote to import the feed (importfeed).

  • Learning Django can be daunting, there are a lot of moving parts. So I strongly recommend to build something small and simple first.

  • The directory structure and projects vs apps might be confusing at first, but it starts to make more sense as you go. It makes for flexible and extensible projects.

  • My first impression overall is that Django has a robust and elegant design. OK I am not going into Django vs Flask, each has its own use cases. So far I like them both (and Julian loves Flask so I better watch out ...)

  • I learned my first baby steps reading the famous create-a-poll tutorials. I referred back to them while writing the app. This worked pretty well for me. The Django docs are excellent: complete, concise, using dev best practices, written by developers for developers. And up2date (!) which eliminates a lot of potential issues.

  • I ended up reading quite a bit on my phone thanks to the well-formatted epub. Don't read the entire thing (it would take you weeks if not months), however I did some early exploration on the models (ORM), migrations and QuerySets (how to query the DB) sections, which was quite useful.

  • As we said in our Python resources article best is to iterate through practice and reading: Read some more, try new things you learn in your code. Repeat.

  • Last but not least it was not easy at first. I got stuck a couple of times and luckily there was Stackoverflow (here and here, and a bunch of other issues I ran into).

  • Having some Flask and web development experience under my belt did help a lot understand Django's structure and workflow better. So any Flask you do before jumping on Django will be beneficial. It feels like learning Italian after Spanish.

  • Getting this out there and understanding the overall Django workflow and how the pieces fit together was extremely satisfying. It created momentum to keep going extending this app and build a more complex app.

  • My next app will be a complete rewrite of fbreadinglist aka nuke PHP and FB API for good and make an attractive and maintainable reading app your friends will thank you for - luckily we have Django now :)

Resources

  • In spite of having the docs close-by at all times, from a didactic standpoint I did start reading a Django book cover-to-cover: Django Unleashed. I hope 1.8 (book) vs 1.11 (latest) won't get me into trouble, but if so that could be good learning too.

  • Another book I often hear mentioned as one of the best in the field is: Two Scoops of Django.

  • If you want team training check out Trey Hunner's Truthful Technology.

We will probably write a dedicated resources post when we get further into our 100 Days of Django.

Feedback

Comments, questions, ideas are welcome. Use the comments below or reach out via Twitter or email.


Keep Calm and Code in Python!

-- Bob


See an error in this post? Please submit a pull request on Github.

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