Thursday, September 18th, 2008...2:05 am

Apple Club presentation @ 同济大学 (Tongji Unveristy) Shanghai

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Song Shuo, a fellow intern at Google, invited me to give a presentation to the Apple club at his University, Tongji Uniersity.  The club focuses on bringing Apple developers within the school together to work on projects.  The club helps sponsor scholarships to send members to events around the world.  Song has attended WWDC two years in a row on scholarship.  The club has also produced some very cool mac applications and even published a Cocoa book in Chinese.

My presentation focused on my personal projects to motivate why learning software development on Apple platforms is a great idea.  I talked about 3 aspects of my experience:

  • My Dashboard Widgets newTunes and CodeBreaker
  • Some video software I have written for spatiotemporal distortion
  • My recent experience at Cocoa Camp, a 1 week intensive iPhone/Cocoa development at Apple campus in Cupertino.

I concluded with a list of what reasons I thought OS X and iPhone were great platforms for students to learn how to develop applications.  They were basically the following:

  • User Base: lots of users, and growing.  Great for sharing your applications with friends
  • XCode & Development Tools: Great tools for development - and they are free!
  • Support & Documentation: Amazing documentation and developer support.
  • UNIX: Leverage a ton of open source technologies
  • Consistency & Predictability: It is easy to know what configurations your users will have.  This way you can spend less time testing and more time developing.
  • User Experience: A consistent and great user experience in all of your applications.

There were about 100 people present, which is a lot more than I expected.  The other presentations that day were in Mandarin, but of course I did mine in English.  Despite not being their native language, the students were very attentive.  I was concerned that I had not been understood, but Shuo assured me that the students followed my presentation.  After the meeting I got a tour of the school and spoke with a few students about their projects and experiences.

I can’t thank Shuo enough for inviting me to his school.  It was an incredible and challenging experience to craft a presentation for this audience.  More than anything, the experience inspired  to continue learning Mandarin.  In the cab ride home I told Shuo that in 3 years I want to be able to give that same presentation but in the students’ native tongue.

The experience at the school taught me another important lesson. Before exposure to engineering in China I hadn’t realized an important factor in the life of an international developer: most documentation is in English.  I take for granted that if I am working on a specific problem I can download white papers, look at API, and read forums and blogs about my topic all in my native language.  A Chinese developer learning technical languages and engineering is also required to learn written and spoken English.  This makes learning a lot more difficult; an obstacle I hadn’t considered before.

After meeting so many creative and motivated developers at Tongji I realized in the next few years bridging  language gaps will be a vital stepping stone. In order to allow young non-English speaking engineers to express themselves we in the tech community must make an effort to remove the language barriers.  I believe this does not mean teaching English more, but instead emphasizing localization and internationalization when creating documentation and technical publications.  It also should involve more outreach to programs like Shuo’s Apple Club. This realization has given me new motivation and direction in learning Mandarin.  I hope that I can perhaps play a small role in building the bridge between cultures.  I am definitely facing my own language barrier, and as of now it seems like Mandarin fluency is a very distant and difficult goal.

But as Lao-Tzu has been famously quoted, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

1 Comment

  • Hi Jim,
    So pleased to know that your experiences are bridging a hugh gap in cross-cultural experiences with like-minded people who will soon be influencing their country’s policies and decisions. We are moving toward needing to think of ourselves as connected to all others on our planet. It does start with the first step, and you are a fine ambassador for how the Chinese will think of Americans. The real world is so far away from what is planned in the nation’s capitals and halls of government. Often, it is what we do on a small scale that makes a big difference. I plan to keep up with your adventures and thinking. Don’t stop.

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