In less than 30 hours, Singapore celebrates our 41st birthday and the whole nation expects a rolling good party! There’s something for everyone, be it the multi-million dollar fireworks, the parades by the armed forces and social organizations, the aero-batics by the elite troops, aircraft fly-bys, the breathtaking performances put together by students, youths and with both amateurs and professionals co-operating together in what has always been the nation’s biggest social equalizing event of our diverse races and social classes.
This year, nostalgia will meet the usually unbridled joy of the attendees and participants as the National Stadium @ Kallang will host its last ever National Day since 1966 before its torn down for a new sports hub. And the organizers have really leveraged on this memorable moment and created the most awesome multimedia experience for web-savvy Singaporeans.
As you saw above, the website this year has truly been worthy of the occasion with brilliant colors that exude the brilliance of color and celebration while not being overly cluttered and messy. Best of all, it loads fine on the Firefox browser. In addition, there are:
The obvious Web 1.0 package of:
Even though Web 1.0-ish, the wallpapers are a nice touch, finally some decent and actually a few impressive shots of our city-scape that makes me use one as my wallpaper for today.
But whats new, souped up and exciting is the new digital media package reflective of the more recent digital revolution on the internet and mobile phone platforms:
- near-comprehensive collection of free MP3s since the 1988 National Day,
- free video clips of event highlights during the celebration since 1997, even overseas celebrations such as the air force base in Arizona, USA,
- free polyphonic ringtones to the tune of popular National Day songs and easy-to-follow downloading instructions by Iguana Mobile
- and mobile messaging (SMS/MMS) greeting portals by Singtel
So what’s Bjorn gushing about, you might think? The organizers have not really done anything new this year or truly revolutionary.
Well, I do and here’s why:
- Youth Appeal. I really think the new media material of ringtones, videos, MP3 songs will stick due to the high adoption rates of cell phones and immense amount of time kids spend to personalize their phones. Not even mentioning the amount of time young people spend just surfing the web. The Singapore National Day event has always focused on involvement of schoolchildren from 8 to the college students of 20+ in all the rehearsals and actual event. Last week, I was on the MRT and noticed primary school kids fooling around with National Day music on their phones. The inclusion of such content have definitely given more relevant choice to the youths of Singapore who now have more local media alternatives to the Youtube videos and foreign-made MP3 songs. But i will suggest uploading some of these to Youtube too so as to improve the chances of Singaporeans watching it or even adding sections for bloggers to paste code of the videos, or email the links to their friends through MSN IM easily. Making the videos compatible with multiple formats for mobile phones, iPods will be awesome too. And maye consider a NDP blog in future? Complete with RSS feeds for those who like the updates? These little features will help in spreading this content virally.
- Focus on User Experience of Website. I never felt inclined to visit the National Day website in past years, always stalling at the homepage, which is god-awfully ugly all the time, slow to load and loaded with text no one wants to read. THis year, the website is fun, easily navigable, colorful (yet not gawdily so) and cleanly designed at the same time. Perhaps the Web 2.0 inspired round boxes framing the main categories of sub-events and content helped. =) And maybe thats why I clicked to more pages and discovered all this media that might have been there in earlier years. Finally, somebody understands that the homepage is the digital equivalent of the shopfront and that web surfers have the same behavioral patterns of window-shoppers.
- Tearing down the Walled Garden of past and present National Day media content. Opening up the historical digital archive of National Day songs and videos. Finally again, such media is no longer confined to the ownership of schools or governemtn agencies and are now uploaded for access by any web user. When I was in California last year, I always wonder where and when I will be able to listen to these tunes and let my foreign friends hear them since these songs are not even downloadable on Bittortent, Limewire etc… I am glad the organizers did not think of selling them and this enlightened approach towards releasing free MP3 versions might really help in allowing Singaporeans or even foreigners to listen to the catchy though propaganda-esque tunes many Singaporeans grew up with. Its an integral part of our local culture and by democratizing the songs, Singapore is really placing the tools of nation-building in the hands of the citizens or well-wishers. Quite a liberal approach for our government.
Having a strong web presence for National Day is definitely useful for the legions of overseas Singaporeans who hunger desperately for local cuisine. I have seen some of these people and even was one of them last year. Without the physical proximity of soaking in the atmosphere and mood of National Day, the next closest thing will be a rich media experience over the Web. And I think 2006 is a watershed as we are finally in the right direction, digitally.