Jesse Aland- Collaboration Project

I had a great experience with the collaboration project, and I had a great experience with Truc Ngo. We both learned a lot about each other, and we both really dived into the evaluation of the websites. Even though the communication was strictly business it seemed, I feel like we both learned from each other. I learned that Truc really hates ads in any context, and I’m sure he learned I hate poor color design.

Overall, I’d say this is a good bookend to my time in Minnesota State University, Mankato. It just shows there’s so much to explore out there and even though we all come from different cultures and backgrounds, the universal connection between us is being able to tell whether a website sucks or not. And I think that’s beautiful.

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International Collaboration Project

For my project I collaborated with Diego Mancera. Diego is a 21-year-old born in Guanajuato, Mexico. He currently studies aeronautical engineering at Instituto Politécnico Nacional in Mexico City. I came into contact with him because he is a friend’s extended family member. Diego and I contacted each other using Facebook Messenger. Diego’s English was very impressive and there were no issues understanding each other.

Estimating the time I have spent on this project is difficult because there are many phases to it. Communication with Diego took around an hour. Analyzing the websites took about two and a half hours. Compiling the data and creating the power point took about four hours. The memo took another two hours so I am at about 9.5 hours total for the project.

This project was a great way to understand how people from other countries interpret websites. Our expectations for what a website should look like turned out to be similar. Good website designs will be universally liked by people from anywhere in the world.  If a design works really well it will be used by many. This experience was great, it was fun getting to know Diego and see how websites in Mexico and America compare.

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Getting an international perspective on web design & content (Aatir)

This final memo on topic 7, understanding the international perspective on web design and content, concludes all findings, and the overall experience. Even though my international partner, Sylla – from Bomoko, Mali, wasn’t attending an academic program with a concentration in design, technical communication or usability engineering, he had a great eye for design, and was very observant when it came to critically analyzing web content for its visual shortcomings. This speaks at lengths of the greater than ever expectations from web content for following design and usability conventions.

Our strategy was to choose an internationally renowned website, preferably serving content in multiple languages, and use it as a benchmark for comparing websites which weren’t as established. Sylla, was keen on using local Mali websites for this comparative analysis. These websites were posting news content generated on a daily basis and had a significant local viewership.

After having gone over the website of our chosen benchmark, British Broadcasting Company, thoroughly, Sylla came up with two local websites which had content, web design, and the viewership which made for a fair comparison with the benchmark.

Complimenting the comparison with our overall analysis, which comprised of recording our finding on a pre-designed rubric, helped us identify design flaws in greater detail. This really helped us appreciate how web content generated with limited resources tend to struggle when it comes to adhering to higher levels of quality for their content. Once biggest element where local news sites lacked quality was image resolution. Supporting images for news content and other branding content for the news agency were observed to be pixelated, and not of the appropriate resolutions. This lead us to believe how they might have limited budgets or other financial constraints for sourcing images which were of higher resolutions.

How we both reached similar conclusions and identified the same design and usability defects was really insightful. We were both of the idea that because of the increasing frequency with which web content is viewed on a daily basis, design lacking in quality stands out more than ever. In times like these, the need for testing our websites for usability and stellar design is greater than ever.

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Collaborating with International Students

I had the fairly unique experience of working with an student in Vietnam to evaluate some websites. My partner’s name was Chieu. Although it would have been nice to get to know each other, our conversations were almost exclusively about the task at hand. Despite this, I am impressed by how polite and humble Chieu was. When we were done, he thanked me and offered to help me again in the future if I needed anything.

Our task was to evaluate 4 websites, 2 English websites and 2 Vietnamese websites. Our English 472 class assembled a rubric for evaluating websites on navigation, style, and content quality.

I was surprised by how similar the news sites Chieu selected were to news sites in the United States. I’m glad web designers around the world have reached a consensus on what a good and functional website looks like. I would say Chieu did not grade as harshly as I did. However, I didn’t ask him about his familiarity with technical editing or web design, so it’s possible that we were imagining a slightly different set of criteria for our evaluations.

The biggest issue I had with trying to evaluate the sites in Vietnamese was Google Translate. Although most of what we were evaluating was not strictly related to the quality of the writing on the site, there were some distractions and misunderstandings caused by the poor quality of the translation.

Working together with a student from another country was interesting and I think more courses at Minnesota State University, Mankato should have projects like it. Looking at writing and design from different parts of the world makes you look at what you are familiar with from a different angle too!

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Collaboration with friend in Germany

I am very pleased and feel fortunate to able to work with Christina Salwitzik. We communicated through emails and started to know each better. We wanted to be very clear about what we have to do for our project and slowly we started to work on it. Christina was doing major in Media communication and she learned about linguistic standardization and reuse of information. She was very good in English and the big part of her studies is the design, implementation of corporate design and language as central elements of a corporate identity. We were supposed to evaluate 4 sites in total, the two site she chose were and The sites I chose were and

I was quite surprised that Germany has such a great ridesharing community which is called bla bla car, it’s the world long distance carpooling service. The best part of working with a partner from a different country is that you always learn something new and that’s really fascinating to me. We communicate only via email and slowly we started to talk about our universities. We were fully aware of our sites and there is no problem understanding the sites. The only problem I faced was the translation but Google translation took care of that pretty well. I would love to work with her again if I get the opportunity, I can’t ask for a better partner.

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Dusty Xiamen University of Technology collaboration

I was pleased to get to work with students in another country. My partners were Raizel and Jennifer. We first mainly communicated through email to get the project started. I sent them the rubric and explained the assignment. Then we chose four sites for evaluation. The sites I chose were and The sites that Raizel chose were and

Later on in the project I installed WeChat on my phone and added both of my partners. After doing this we communicated more frequently. We talked about being students and what it is like going to school so far away from home. I sent them pictures of my kids and we talked about some of the assignments that they were working on. I found both my partners to be very friendly.

After receiving the graded rubrics from my partners I was surprised to see that they were more critical than I was of the English sites and I was more critical than they were of the Chinese sites. I think much of the difference comes from cultural aesthetics. All four sites we chose are clearly very professional and it was hard to find fault with them. Most of the faults I encountered with the Chinese sites were due to Google Chrome’s translation abilities. If I had this project to due over again I would choose one professional site and one less well-made site.

I am definitely glad I was able to collaborate with my partners in China. It was a valuable learning experience and I look forward to future collaboration with people from all over the planet.


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Collaboration with friend in Xiamen

It has been an awesome experience to work with Caroline and Jane, two students from XMUT. The first few emails were spent just getting to know each other, and we seemed to have some common interests like video games and spending time with friends between studies. I also explained the project and how we would choose websites and evaluate their usability based on a rubric our 472 class made. Even though we were working toward finishing the project, every email had a little about the project and a lot about getting to know each other.

We talked a lot about school because I think we all thought it was fascinating to see the differences in academic systems and societies. One thing they found interesting was that I was majoring in creative writing. I had to explain a little about what that meant and I actually sent them some of my work, which they enjoyed. I was very impressed with how fluent they were in English. They must get a great education in Xiamen.

The project we completed was to choose four websites and evaluate them using a rubric. After evaluating the websites we were to share our findings. I found that Caroline and Jane were a lot more optimistic and forgiving in their evaluations, and I was a little more pessimistic and harsh. This could be credited to the fact that 472 aims to teach students what to look for when evaluating a website. However, it could also be that a translated website changes the integrity of that website. Given that the websites we chose were in our first languages, each page had to be translated and sometimes translations can change the content. I think the translation could have had an effect, but that’s just a theory.

Overall, I was very pleased with how our collaboration turned out. I was also very fortunate to have two committed collaborators to work with. Caroline and Jane were consistent and friendly, and I don’t think I could have been more lucky with the arrangement. It was an unforgettable experience to have made friends on the other side of the world!

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My hosts have been very generous with their time and hospitality during my four weeks at Xiamen University of Technology. Yesterday, my last day on campus, my colleague Zhang Ling and some students I have met, were invited to a farewell lunch at one of the campus restaurants. In the evening, it was an off-campus farewell dinner with the dean, Dr. Zhang Yuejun, and deputy dean, Professor Junming Chen,  of the School of Foreign Languages. These events may well be a sign of the future good will and cooperative ventures between our universities.

A quick summary of my activities at XMUT:

  • Two meetings with the Director of the International Office, Mr. Lin Hongwei.
  • Meetings with administrators and faculty members to discuss possible cooperative exchange programs with Minnesota State Mankato: Vice President Dr. Zhao Zhenxiang; Dean of Digital Arts, Terry Guo; and Professor Zeng Haiquan, the director of the Modern Engineering Training Center.
  • Three lectures: Two to student groups and one to faculty in the School of Foreign Languages.
  • Three evenings at the English Corner with students who are keen to improve their English language.
  • At least half a dozen meetings/meals with students for conversation in English.
  • Several informal discussions with foreigners who teach English here: Hunter, Grace, Rachel, Keith, Peter, Josh and others.
  • A number of morning walks/jogs around campus.
  • Daily meals in the campus canteens. The Halal noodle cafe is particularly memorable.
  • Numerous trips in to Xiamen City for sightseeing and shopping.
  • Two farewell meals with students and faculty/administrators.

Particularly helpful during my stay were my colleague Professor Zhang Ling and Hong Bao (Sandra) in the Office of International Cooperation and Exchange.


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A new Silk Road?

Can you believe this? A 15-day freight connection by train to Poland from here!



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Workplace communication in Xiamen industry

So what have we noticed so far in our interviews? (My colleague and I are conducting interviews in companies around Xiamen to find out about their workplace communication.) A few themes are emerging.

  1. It is common that employees that write documents of various kinds are not necessarily titled “writers”. They might be from research and development, marketing, or IT. This is common in the States as well. Engineering students sometimes don’t realize that they will be asked to write a lot of technical documents on the job.
  2. Informal communication tools are important. This means in China that WeChat and QQ are used in some work places for informal, but work related, communication, just as I often use my own SMS application at home for my farm management communication and those of my university colleagues who have Facebook accounts, use FB chat to communicate informally, but often about work. This is usually “inward facing” or in-house communication, but not always. I visitor to the company, for example, might use WeChat to communicate about how to negotiate the security gate at the entrance to the company building.
  3. Company websites are important everywhere. The companies we have visited so far, however, used two different outward facing sites, one for international audiences in English and one for Chinese audiences in Mandarin. These two sites are sometimes quite different in content and are sometimes even on different servers, the English one outside China and the domestic one inside China.
  4. Professional communication/technical communication/business communication seems to be de-valued in these companies in as much as those who write are either employed mainly for some other skill/ability, or they are not titled writers.
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