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Flowgrams: A New Multimedia Experience

We're here today with Abhay Parekh, founder and CEO of Flowgram, a company that promises a "new" kind of multimedia experience.

DDJ: Abhay, what are "Flowgrams"?

AP: Flowgrams are a free, groundbreaking interactive communications tool that give people and organizations the power to combine various digital assets into a unified multimedia package with a guided audio narrative. Flowgrams allow you to package and share web pages, PowerPoint presentations, videos, documents, and other web-based elements in ways never before possible. Instead of just adding static links to an email, or creating a video using a screen casting tool, Flowgrams enable you to actually take your viewers on a guided tour by walking them through interactive Web pages, highlighting content, adding notes and providing a personalized voiceover as you go.

Flowgram is for anyone who wants to communicate in an engaging, interactive way on any topic. Flowgrams are interactive, non linear, and live -- but they also leverage the best aspects of presentation software and screen casts. For a Flowgram creator, the entire web serves as a palette -- you can mash it up in any way you choose to bring your message to life. Making a Flowgram is easy, requires no downloads or installations, and can take as much or as little time as creator likes. For the simplest Flowgrams, the authors just choose what content they want to share and upload it. Flowgram creators also have the capability to author more elaborate multimedia experiences by uploading their own audio and music, adding highlights, editing transitions, and creating their own custom web pages. Consumers and business users are using Flowgram to share presentations, offer site tours, explain things, create talking portfolios, teach, entertain, sell more efficiently and effectively, express ideas, and more. You can share a Flowgram via a link within an email or post the Flowgram widget directly into your blog or website.

The Flowgram viewing experience is completely interactive, so viewers can control what they're watching. They can click on web links, play videos, pause, skip around and engage with the Flowgram as much they like or they can just lean back and enjoy a passive viewing experience if that's what they're looking for.

DDJ: Flowgrams accommodate a number of different file formats. Can you tell us how this works?

AP: The trick here is to convert the file format into a web-friendly file type. This usually means converting the imported file into Flash or HTML. We had to build a set of tools that handle this conversion and architect the API in a way that allows us to quickly add new media types moving forward. For example, one of our developers added PDF and Microsoft Word docs last week after only a couple of days of effort. We plan to expose these APIs to developers so that they can add their own media types and integrate this service into their own offerings.

DDJ: From a technical perspective, what's the most unique feature of Flowgrams?

AP: We found interesting technical challenges around almost every corner when we were building the Flowgram platform. We set out to create a product that worked with every website, and digital document format. What's more, Flowgram gives creators a set of tools to interact with these pages. Given the diversity of how pages are coded and the nuances of different file types, we needed to create techniques to homogenize all of these formats.

The architecture also had to afford us the ability to integrate many disparate technologies. For example, we make extensive use of Adobe Flex for our client, we've created interesting server side screenshot technology using WebKit, and our highlighting feature is incredibly robust -- especially considering that it does not require a plug-in or add on. It's the technical complexity that arises when using of all of these features in concert that makes Flowgram unique.

DDJ: What's the most unique Flowgram application you've run across so far?

AP: The thing that has been most surprising about Flowgram is that, unlike many Web 2.0 tools, a large percentage of our users are utilizing Flowgram to get important things done. We have sales people using it for pitches, teachers are using it as an educational tool and also having their students use it for their reports. We've even had a keynote delivered at a major conference using Flowgram. We're excited by the diversity of applications we've seen so far, especially considering that we've only been publicly available for a month.

DDJ: Where can readers go for more information about Flowgrams?

AP: They can visit for more information.

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