View Full Version : Help me out with opinions

10-18-2001, 12:34 PM
We've discussed before what a good book should contain, but now I want to know opinions on the best structure for an AS book. Say (hypotheical) I was to write a book on ActionScript for beginners (that is complete programming newbies with no programming experience, but people who know how to use Flash), which of the following methods would be best in your opinion?
Fully example based - Chapters 1 - X are increasingly complex example projects with the code explained as we go along but no preceding chapters outlining the general structure of ActionScript.
Hybrid - The first X chapters deal with the basic 'structure' of ActionScript and cover key programming concepts (with code examples) for beginners: like variables, conditionals, objects/methods, etc. (Kinda like my tutorials… but in more depth). Then the rest is example based as above.
Fully Theoretical - whereby the chapters just cover everything you need to know (in depth) to get to Intermediate level, with examples but not fully worked practical applications...

I'd appreciate opinions for this (at this stage) hypothetical question. Think like a newbie if you’re not one! :) I'm also open to other methods if you think you know a good one. This is kinda a continuation of that thread I posted way back about the best structure for an AS book.

20 Ton Squirrel
10-18-2001, 02:11 PM
As my experience goes in learning programming languages, I find that I learn more from a theoretical approach... like having the help files open beside me. But that comes from knowing most programming languages have similar aspects. Like I knew there was some way to get the length of a string in AS because I've dabbled in VB or C before... and I only had to find an equivalent function.

So, it is my firmest opinion that a hybrid approach would be best, that way you have all the ground covered. You can have the textbook definition of a process or function followed by witty layman's terminology and end it all up with an example.

Just remember to keep the humor in it. Reading these books from FOE is kinda like chewing on chalk. Mmmmmmmm.... chalky goodness.

10-18-2001, 02:52 PM
definitely the hybrid approach, i think if you supply a good foundation of the structure and concepts in actionscript the example projects will have more value and meaning to a new as programmer.

10-19-2001, 01:18 AM
The hybrid aproach would seem to be the most informative (and labor intensive), but I'm not too keen on chopping the book in half with the "Theory" in the front and "Examples" in the back. I'd rather see a book that provides the theory then shows a good example and possibly even follows up with detailed explanation of the code.

All I want to know is everything.


10-19-2001, 03:20 AM
I would do the hybrid approach, too . . . but we have this wonderful thing called the internet so that you can use it. Go in-depth in the theory in the book, give a couple examples, and then provide links to tutes and the forums of our very own ActionScripts.org! It's much better to have something that's interactive than to simply follow some examples.

If I were to start all over again, I'd love a book that explained everything, plus informed me of a place like this.

p.s. -- What I wish there were more of were "beginner" books that would introduce a new language (like actionscript) to programmers without all the background info ("this is a variable. It stores information.");)

10-19-2001, 06:34 AM
Looks like the Hybrid approach is a popular one - speaking as someone whom programming is using completely the wrong half of my brain I'd have to say I personally respond (learn) best when I can see a simple working example of a concept which I can then build. THEN I like to go in and read detail about the hows, how nots and the whys of it all. I can read something three times before it sticks, but if I build a sample of it..Usually... it stays. If you are serious about doing a book - you have my vote. Perhaps then you can get some financial reward for all the good deeds you do. - Cheers, Rupert

"You'll have to speak up, I'm wearing a towell" - Homer Simpson

10-19-2001, 11:43 AM
As a real newbie i would appreciate a mainly example with some theoretical explanation. but the example must be really useful, movie that meet real problems. as a former MMDirector martyr i see many manuals that give some poor examples that are not complete and that cannot help you very much.

10-19-2001, 11:56 AM
I forget: put it simple! As newbies consider that we didn't know nothing. If use technical jargon explain it without use other jargon. No fear to repete the same example in different context. Give some suggestion on what's better: In accordance with the software manuals you can do anything but we know that is untrue. Newbies didn't have much questions but if they'll get complete and serious answer we can do many good things.

I'm saving some pseudo-dollar to perhaps-buy your hipo-book.:p

10-19-2001, 12:46 PM
As I am coding for several years now, I had to read several books to discover new plateforms.

I remember myself studying books with a "by the example" approach. Most of them where a bit boring because I was obliged to walk in the author steps on poor examples.

In the other way, theorical books are most of the time ideal tools to get asleep. Torturing the mind requires high concentration and loads of energy to sustain the effort (concepts, meta-stuff, bla bla bla).

So the hybrid way should be a good mix. The bigest problem to me is to find a good balance between a joyfull example and smart theorical tips to customize it. I think that if you provide an intersting example wich grows at each of your chapters, readers would be happy to learn at the same time some tips issued from the coding technics (optimization, memory managment, coding clarity, object interest, etc...) if they think it is of any interest, of course.

Whatever I say, I wish to anyone who wants to write an ActionScript tutorial book many courage and long nights of work.

Live long and prosper Mr Vulcain.

10-19-2001, 02:11 PM
I think I wrote this somewhere in the forums before but I found that my main hurdle to learning actionscript was not knowing any other programming language and therefore not being able to easily interpret code. I mean, not being able to distinguish between what words are used intrinsically within actionscript and which words are just variables arbitrarily used within the tutorials. I found that because many books and tutorials were written by people used to coding in other languages they tended to use similar language within AS that were just meaningless to me and I found it hard to tell what was actually AS and what was variable. If that makes sense.
Also, grammar was a problem. A tutorial that clearly explained
the grammer and actual structural layout of AS would have been useful.
Personally I don't learn anything unless I need to find something out so a book containing examples was pretty much useless to me. It is so boring to simply recreate someone else's work direct from a book, and not very satisfying once it is done either. Besides, I find that unless I am answering a challenge to create something for myself I don't tend to learn anyway. It is only when you have to think about what you need to do and work out how to do it yourself that it begins to make sense.
What would be cool is for an AS book that briefly explains HOW and WHY AS works as well as what to write to make Flash do stuff.
Theory and Example could work well in tandem, but with nice quick samples to build like in the tutorials section here. There are too many books that provide whole great big examples of how to do complete sites when all I might need to know at one time is how to build a tiny part of it. Also, it never seems to be clear how then to apply the AS outside of the example.
Also, quick samples and practical uses at the end of each section rather than in a separate part of the book would get my vote.


10-19-2001, 02:15 PM
Thanks all, keep 'em comming. These are much appreciated!

10-19-2001, 04:28 PM
In fact, I've just read a good example of what I mean about the need to explain the apparently obvious to newbies here:

in which i is questioned (and 20 ton squirrel objects to dieting) (http://www.actionscripts.org/forums/showthread.php3?threadid=6075)


20 Ton Squirrel
10-19-2001, 04:33 PM
Sooooo.... I'm not following here.... does that mean my post was good or bad?


10-19-2001, 04:42 PM
no, mr 20 ton, never fear, your post was just fab. Highly informative. Can I give you a gold star or would that be just too cheeky?
My point was that the question about whether you had to use "i" was asked. I think that there are many unexplained conventions which can confuse a newbie non-coder and to make it easier to learn such apparently obvious things need to be explained. The first time I tried using AS I thought that "i" was as inherent to AS as, for example, "getTarget" or "gotoAndStop".

anyhow... I'm digressing this thread now (apologies)


20 Ton Squirrel
10-19-2001, 04:54 PM
Heh! No sweat, Boo, I was more trying to be a smartarse than looking for a pat on the back. I see whatcha mean, though, about explaining certain nuances about code. There are some things that we vets take for granted that a newbie just boggles over. In my opinion, the Dummy how-to books do a good job of breaking up information like that in those little snippets flagged "Useless Facts" or "Stupid Trivia" or even "READ THIS OR I WILL EAT YOUR KITTEN"

The problem always gets down to figuring what is necessary and what is superfluous. For instance, in my post the simple explanation that you can name a variable anything would have done the job, but in an attempt to get a giggle out of the user I added in the Great Ape Theory... which was superfluous.

Having read enough of Jesse's work, I doubt he'll have that trouble. At least he doesn't go off on rants that no one can understand about how the biscuits stole our fozzlehommit.


10-19-2001, 04:57 PM
You're already on the way to writing something very useful by asking others about it. Start small by testing on others. I've been making a couple simple games and by watching over people's shoulders as they interact it's amazing the questions/ideas they come up with that I had never thought about.

I'm completely new to coding and finding actionscript to be exciting, but very frustrating.

I might not be normal, but here's how I attack it: I see examples (cool). I get and idea and think, "I can do this." I look for a similar idea in a book (right now I have the Flash Bible and a game book) and then I try it. And it doesn't work. At least not exactly the way I want it to. BUT I'm always trying to do things different (I'd like to think more advanced) so they examples are hit or miss. For me time spent explaning how to adapt the code and what you can/cannot do would be the most helpful.

Pretty much it all makes sense in the book, but something gets lost in the application. If you can anticipate where that’ll happen for your readers then you’ll have created something very successful. At the moment I'm dumbing down my stuff and hoping to swap design for instruction.

10-19-2001, 05:38 PM
In my opinion, the hybrid approach would make the most sense. I think it's important to understand the basics of AS and how it all goes together (not too deep and maybe with some small examples of each for us visual folks)...and then the working examples in the remainder of the book would be critical to making that info stick and become a part of the reader's skill set.

Get writing and put me down for a copy :)


10-19-2001, 08:06 PM
samples first then some theoretical after incase you don't understand or would like an expanded explaination of the sample.

10-20-2001, 12:20 PM
I think hybrid (practical examples and then theory ) is the fastest way to learn averything!!! and if the book idea turns real , i will buy one!!!:cool:

10-22-2001, 05:57 PM
The hybrid approach Worked best for me. The friends of ed book foundation AS really helped me to understand AS by leaps and bounds. However it fell short toward the end and needed to merge a little more of AS structure and theory in as my understanding increased through the book. Moocks book is great but for beginners (at least me as a beginner) it is a little to much theory and language wtihout "real world examples". This site helped tremendously as well. Encourage experimentation that is the best way to learn new concepts well.

10-23-2001, 07:25 PM
Jesse, I have just started digging into as and got myself a heap of books, most of them example-based and pretty useless unless I wanted to do the exact same thing. I figured out that what I really wanted (and didn't find) was a book that gave me the theory right from the start, but always accompanied by examples to give me an Idea of exactly how the theory would be applied.
How about some kind of 2-row-layout, one row for the theory and one for the examples? Or the examples in boxes in the theory-text (or vice versa).
That would be good!

Best wishes for your (hypothetical) book!


10-24-2001, 12:51 AM
I have a couple of suggestions:

First of I like the whole explain the theory and then give concrete example as you go along idea as long as the theory is abstract enough to merit an example. Not neccesarlly splitting up from beginner to advanced but definitely a progression with some examples all along the way.

Second. Color code your example script. When i was first learning HTML many many many many years ago (heh) I found a book that color coded the script and it made everything jump out and be instantly recognizable as to what that tag did etc... This helps TREMENDOUSLY for a begginer but may be expensive in the actual printing. I think it was one of those visual quickstart books by peachpit press.

Lastly. Is there anyway to compile a lexicon for Flash? I haven't seen it done yet (although I'm sure it has been) I've seen a few really good ones for Lingo but none for action script. As an addendum, that would be really cool.

that's my three cents

10-24-2001, 02:27 AM
well, as a recent newbie, I've found that the most usefull books are hybrid. They start with basic theory, and then move into examples. These can also be done at the same time.

I've found that a lot of books will jump, from example to example, using differnt types of scripts. They make assumptions that the reader doesn't need the script broken down and then related back to what he just read or learned. Usually, when I learn this stuff, and I don't do it enough to retain most of it, I need to use several sources, and pick from each what I need to know.

the other helpfull item is to always script and use terminology that is the same, consitency through the book is important.

All of this may sound incredibly tedious, but as a beginner it's all necessary. Simple logical steps. If you are impatient and now enough actionScript to be so, then dont get a beginner book.

Hope it helps. -wing