Stanford University’s “JGuide” – Don’t Be Fooled by the Name

By Sergio Lombardi

I never gave any thought to going to Stanford University, but I once had an acquaintance who attended there. His impression of the place was flawless, and everyone I’ve met will say that the place is par excellence, top-notch, etc. In its hallowed halls walk the future geniuses of every academic arena. Google fans will know that Stanford was where the founders and creators of Google met. With such accomplished students, one would think that their websites would be up to par. This is apparently not the case.

I was referred to this Stanford guide to Japan by a friend who knows that I do reviews of websites and blogs about Japan. I had to check and double-check the email to make sure my friend hadn’t sent it ten years ago and the server just delivered it. But he had sent it yesterday, and there the date was, at the bottom of this archaic looking home page: “last updated: 8/6/2010.”

I won’t say this is as bad as Erdoboy’s website. But that’s like saying that two weeks-old leftover tempura isn’t as bad as three weeks-old tempura. Either way, they leave you with some bad indigestion.

The website brings back memories of the old Yahoo! website, with its assortment of directories that is very reminiscent of the one-time internet giant. Of course, Yahoo! was later soundly toppled by Google, but Stanford seems to have ignored the progress made by its former students. How embarrassing that they’d not only model their design off of that of Google’s first competitor, but the competitor’s first website design, too.

Japan Guide

According to the website, the Stanford “Jguide” has proudly served the community since 1994, and it looks like not much has changed since then, either. The home page has a pleasant picture of Stanford University, with some clip art scattered about to add that “internet” ambience that was so popular in the nineties. There’s a list of links to various subjects about Japan, such as “Computers and Internet” and “Arts and Entertainment,” with each link usually guiding you to other links of websites that might prove helpful. I decided to persevere past the homepage and see if I could find some positives. After all, you can’t judge a book by its cover, and I was willing to ignore this particularly poor cover if the content inside was good. I clicked on the “Computers and Internet” link, and then, “Internet Cafes.” The website gave me two links, each to a guide of “thousands” of internet cafés throughout Japan. This could be promising, I thought.

One link was broken. The other went to a suspicious little website (“CuriousCat.com”), where I followed the instructions given on the Stanford website and was given a page-does-not-exist warning. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. Was this really Stanford? I decided to give the guide another go. Perhaps I just viewed a part of the website that was neglected.

How about “Health and Medicine”? This seems a relevant topic. I proceeded to the “Hospitals and clinics” link – surely they’d keep an up-to-date list of hospitals in Japan. I chose the list of hospitals in the Nagoya Region, knowing that there should be quite a list available. The link took me to an error page in the U.S. Embassy government website. It’s a good thing I didn’t have an emergency.

The website is full of dead ends like this. What was more disappointing was that I did not see a single smattering of original text. I understand that Stanford students write quite a few essays – would it have been too much to produce some relevant text for the “Jguide” rather than link to a website like CuriousCat.com? Nearly every single link, it seems, is either broken or useless.

Any public organization ought to be ashamed of hosting such a useless eyesore of a website, but Stanford? This is definitely something I wouldn’t put in the recruitment material – it wouldn’t make me want to take a graphics design course there.

I am surprised they have not taken the guide down, because it reflects poorly upon an organization that would like to be known for being professional and trustworthy. Asides from the one person who updates it, I almost wonder if the university has forgotten about it – surely someone would be indignant about such nonsense existing under Stanford’s good name. Thumbs down to a frankly disappointing website and Japan guide.

– Sergio L.

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~ by Japan Blog Review on September 10, 2010.

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