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Online celebrations.

Not so long ago, if we wanted to stay in touch with our friends and family, we sent a letter or picked up the phone. Then came the Internet, emails and text messaging before sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Bebo developed and became an essential part of many peopleAAEs lives.

Also now, when we want to share videos and photos online, it is incredibly easy to do so on sites such as YouTube and Flickr.

But what about utilising the best aspects of these sites and combining them into one website where we can share our thoughts and ideas, through videos and photographs, on a future event. That is just what Satyabrata Acharya, an Indian expatriate living in Oman for the last nine years, has done. His website www.weeebelong.com allows users to upload media that are in celebration of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said and the upcoming 40th National Day.

The websiteAAEs motto is AaeOman We BelongAAE and after collecting around 1,000 video clips, Satyabrata hopes that he can place them all on a CD and present it to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said. The site is open to nationals and expatriates in Oman and because it is online, those nationals working or studying abroad can also upload their videos and still be a part of the project.

The reasons behind choosing an online-based platform rather than something paper-based is that Satyabrata thinks this way it will appeal to more people. AoVideos, audio and pictures are the most engaging content on the Internet. A video site has an average spending time of five to seven minutes, whereas a text site has one to three minutes. If you can get a user to stay on your site for over five minutes, that in itself is an achievement.Ao

The site is available in both English and Arabic. Since its launch in August to the end of September, Satyabrata says it has had around 60,000 hits. But despite its growing popularity with users, the creators behind the site have struggled to get support from businesses and groups for sponsorship. AoI have approached many of the big corporate groups and ministries. The reason I am speaking to such entities is because these are the people who are trying Au according to their niche and area Au to put Oman in the international market,Ao he said.

The platform is free to browse and free to sign-up and upload. Joining the site enables users to interact with others by uploading or commenting on content. Currently, there are around 30 videos and 100 photos uploaded to the site and that is without Satyabrata conducting any traditional media campaign as such. He has however advertised the site at the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) where it has seemed to have gone down well with students.

AoThis site is targeted at the nationals and the content is generated from within. The nationals can bring in more authentic information than an expatriate can when it comes to their culture. The site is in a constant evolution, what it is like today will be different from what it is tomorrow.Ao

At the end of this year, the site will be developed to include further categories such as entertainment Au similar to those seen on YouTube.

But the content will hopefully remain Oman-based, providing a valuable resource to those looking to learn more about the sultanate and its residents. While the siteAAEs creators will continue to look for support in the form of sponsorship, volunteers to help run it and other colleges that are interested in linking in a similar way to how SQU is are welcome.

Mohammed al Harthy, a national who is involved with the project, hopes the site, aside from helping to celebrate the 40th National Day, will be a type of online encyclopaedia that details what the sultanate and its people have to offer. AoIt will be a channel that allows the participants to tell people about their feelings on Oman. I believe in the idea, so I said I would try as much as I can to help support it.

AoFor example, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said in his speech last week talked about the achievements of Oman and things we should do to protect and develop the country, so it is good to participate and share these ideas with society.Ao

Apex Press and Publishing

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Publication:The Week (Muscat, Oman)
Geographic Code:7OMAN
Date:Oct 28, 2010
Words:747
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