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An Interview with Lou Douros


Lou Douros Lou Douros co-founded Freepath. His passion for story and compassion fordigital storytellers fueled the desire to bridge the gap between content and audience. Lou contributed to the earliest Freepath user experience. Most recently, he co-designed a site where world class, multi-format, native content could move fluidly between communicators, Freepath's social network MyFreepath.Lou sees the world as places made up of people described by their stories; increasingly made up of digital content. His 20+ years of remote video production experience informs his continuing quest to move and be moved by inspired ideas.

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Geetesh: Tell us more about the evolution from Freepath 1 to Freepath 2 – what changed, what evolved, and what remained the same?

Lou: The biggest change between Freepath 1.0 and 2.0 is in what happened around us. People are defining themselves by the digital content they connect with every day. This drove us to ask what they are asking: "How can I use my content with online videos, images, documents, and web stuff to make my point?"

We think it's deeper than that really, they're also asking, "Who else is using digital media to make the same point I am?" The common thread is that communicators are stranded. They have to create something out of nothing, and do it over and over and sometimes under great pressure.

Our newest features address these kinds of needs. Now you can find content others have created in myFreepath, a fully integrated online network of Freepath users. You can drop anybody's playlist into your own library and use it all immediately. Now you can bring in all kinds of your local media and documents and mash them up with online content.

Your presentation through web meetings and digital whiteboards are better in Freepath 2.0. You have complete control of your media withthe advanced dual screen mode. Now you can bookmark websites in your playlist as you use them. Your Word documents and Excel spreadsheets are completely editable in presentation time or while you're prepping.

Oh, there is one other change, Freepath 2.0 including 100mb of online space is FREE.


Geetesh: Give us scenarios where Freepath can be used – anything and everything.

Lou: In every cubicle farm, teacher's lounge, university and conference room... there are those renegades who always seem to make the greatest impact; usually because they'll do what ever it takes to make their point. And we're not just talking about early adopters. Sometimes the best way to make your point is to pull out a pad of paper and begin scratching on it with a No. 2 graphite. So when we look around, we look for knowledge workers who are breaking the rules.

  • While the rest of the presenters are wallpapering with bullet points on a generic template, our users are streaming a webcam from Manila, then changing numbers in real time on a spreadsheet that's already in the audience's email and then showing a segment of a downloaded movie trailer.
  • Teachers in classrooms, or via distance learning services such as GoToMeeting, WebEx, or LiveMeeting and the like, are using Freepath to coordinate their content. They are then uploading it to their own myFreepath groups so anybody in the meeting can have the real source files.
  • Trainers and human resources personnel are providing best of class information for their constituents.
  • We know that filmmakers have used Freepath for storyboarding; quick changes of the story line are no-brainers. They then upload the collaborative elements to myFreepath for development.
  • Sales teams love to be able to share the best of what works by incorporating appropriate YouTube videos as ice-breakers with the run of the mill PowerPoint their marketing department gave them.
  • Home-based business people are using Freepath to be able to actually run their businesses from their homes. They use web conferencing services to recruit and sell, then post their best-practices as playlists for their associates.
  • Churches, who besides schools are the most excited about the zero-price, use it for worship, small group presentations and sharing messages across denominational barriers using Freepath.
  • We know of at least one government agency using Freepath to deploy grass roots messaging through their constituents. Talk about real-time! These guys are pulling together content that breaks in the news, publishing a playlist into myFreepath and that same minute their volunteer presenters are showing it to activate change.

We've imagined it being used in many other ways such as disaster messaging, digital signage, closed circuit-type video, etc... But we've only been out just over a month too. So we'll have more stories from the field in a few weeks at this rate.


Geetesh: What is the myFreepath site, and how does it add to the Freepath experience.

Lou: MyFreepath is a place to freely download, expand and share ideas. Every myFreepath user gets 100mb of free storage for their .play files. MyFreepath, in its infancy still, has some of what you've come to know as social networking capabilities. People invite people, create groups and upload and download content through our transportable playlists (the extension for those, ironically, is .play) What makes it special is best described in a quick scenario.

Geetesh, you're working on a playlist with a couple videos you've created, three PowerPoints, a streaming video and photos you've shot on a digital camera. You've also got a PDF file and a Word document thrown in there because you know they could be useful. You've presented your story with this playlist and gotten lots of accolades, in fact it's changed a few lives, so you think, "I'm going to get this into the hands of people I can't meet face to face, but who have heard about my story through the grapevine".

You export the playlist in Freepath 2.0 into a .play format (all the assets are contained there) and upload it to myFreepath. Every person in your network of contacts now has access to your whole playlist - right from their installation of Freepath 2.0. It reads the list from the server. I'm in your network so all I have to do is download that list into my local library. You can also set the privacy of that playlist to be accessible through search on myFreepath.

Beyond that, there are many big plans to expand the experience, and of course, you'll find other features like in-system messaging and discussions, groups and that 100mb of free .play storage.


Geetesh: You moved from a priced product to a free product model – what implications does this have for your users – also are there plans to create a high-level priced bracket with more features?

Lou: We think a free download and 100mb of online storage makes removes one of the barriers keeping everyday communicators from getting their jobs done. We presume that "social media" means we're in a "media culture". We won't get very far in creating a wealth of good ideas in the form of easily accessible online content unless there are many people contributing. So the non-price is an effort to get people sharing. We are always listening to what people want, that makes sense for us to provide. There may be features, or services that make sense for us to sell to customers.


Geetesh: How do you spread the word about Freepath – and what strategies are you exploring to integrate Freepath with social media platforms.

Lou: Hey... that's cool if I rearrange the words in your question, I can make an answer... "we are exploring social media platforms as a strategy to spread the word about Freepath". One of our initiatives is in the education space. This is a great place for us to get started because our price is perfect for diminishing budgets. Also, we've identified our key target user is someone who is more passionate about their message than they are about the technology, teachers are that for sure.

We are partnering with companies and organizations to provide targeted large rollouts of our solutions. We've identified that business development strategies work better for us than buying traditional advertising. If we can participate in a solution, we have a better chance of getting noticed, and we also get to participate in creative, significant projects.

Our users are everyday heros. They read blogs, they browse the web for new ways to say the same old thing... so if you look for where those people hang out, you'll begin to see us there too. We're already starting to see Freepath in unexpected places, and you'd be amazed at what happens when just one sales guy destroys his competition with a brilliant playlist. EVERYbody wants to know what just hit them. Freepath's a pretty easy thing to promote, it only takes one or two pain points (no shortage there), and you've got their attention.


Geetesh: What do you have in store for the future – is there a road map, or just a direction that you can share.

Lou: Our roadmap is not a straight line, that's for sure. We're agnostic on all sides. We make all this great content play together where you'd have to use "Alt-Tab" otherwise. So with all that, there are many opportunities for development. We're disciplining ourselves to get our priorities right. If you look at one of our goals as: "Any Content to Any Screen", you'll see that there's a pretty clear path for us right now. People have preferences for what content they want to use to consume ideas through. They also have preferences for which screen they'll use to consume it. It's not about the projector anymore. Now you've got on-demand viewing through mobile devices and web portals, permalinks on just about anything publishable, and some things live-streamed.

We plan to shorten the distance between your content and your viewers.


Geetesh: Can you share some trivia, talk about an unconventional use of Freepath, or just send a message to Indezine readers.

Lou: I can think of at least one US presidential candidate who, during a recent debate, could have used widely available content in a Freepath playlist to challenge his opponent on just about every position. Our non-linear playlist is accountability waiting to happen. It's perfect for when you know what's going to be said, you just don't know when.

I heard a story of one trainer using Freepath on Citrix's GoToMeeting to conference with constituents hundreds of miles out at sea. There's also been a story floating around about a guy who built his playlist while driving in traffic to the meeting. We've still not fully baked our hands free interface, but so far it's only cellphones you're not supposed use your hands for while driving, (at least here in California)



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