What Elaine nearly did next – the business idea I nearly explored before Web Content Partners

 Would you have backed me? On 20 August 2008, I sent a proposal for a business I called CloudCouch to the organisers of the Enterprise Platform Programme at Waterford Institute of Technology. I think I was a bit ahead of my time. The recession hadn’t officially hit, but I personally was feeling it

Think back to 2008 – what was different? As far as I was aware QR Codes, Groupon and the likes of Aertv were not around. I used Facebook but wouldn’t be a regular user of Twitter for another year. I wanted to offer everything these had and more in the one website: CloudCouch.

CloudCouch doesn’t exist now, I was full of ideas then and put together a proposal to get onto a one-year enterprise programme for business owners and start-ups. the carrot was Enterprise Ireland ‘CORD’ funding. In the end I knew I couldn’t carry out CloudCouch on my own but I still got on the course with the safer option – writing website content.

Still, I gave a presentation to get a place on the course. This blog post contains some highlights from the original presentation because I want to show that when I say I’m full of ideas for businesses other than the one I run, I really am.

Main proposal

CloudCouch is the recession-proof Web 2.0 answer to the effect the recession will have on people’s lifestyles.

It will offer home broadband users who find themselves reining in unnecessary spending a place to hang out online, where they can be entertained; a portal where they could find everything they could possibly want.

Essentially CloudCouch is a browser within a browser, containing the equivalent of a number of key sites within the one page view, negating the need to tab between sites or multitask within one online experience, but with the emphasis on staying in rather than ‘going out’.

Where the word cloud came from

Before I show you the next bit – I just want to point out that cloud computing wasn’t really an understood term four years ago. Well, not among the people I was hanging out with. And people didn’t really have smartphones then so were probably not doing the same amount of browsing and watching tv.

The name CloudCouch is derived from the cloud in a ‘tag cloud’ found on blog sites where a cloud of words are listed and browsers can click on one specific word to be brought to blogs of that topic. Couch is obvious, the seating where a web surfer at home is likely to be sitting while exploring the net, texting, listening to music, watching tv and chatting of an evening.

Every couch has a silver lining is a take on the saying every cloud has a silver lining. In this case the couch ie ‘sitting in’, is caused by the cloud of recession. The silver lining is that a person can be entertained for free at home through this site, without ‘changing channels’ as such, or flicking between other web pages or tabs.

The vision for a deals/entertainment/news platform

Of course the proposal went into detail about competitors – mainly portal sites and so on and I had all the target market data too.

What’s interesting is it had a bit of an element of content curation before I fully understood the term. What it’s missing is the whole Netflix/AppleTV adoption.

  • The site’s section editors would aggregate the best videos/photos/blogs/news stories/podcasts/radio stations/tv shows from the web and put them in the one place for users to find easily.
  • But it will offer guides to what is available offline that won’t break the bank.
  • For example, rather than focusing on cinema reviews, it would take a look at what’s available on TV for free or in the bargain bin of Tesco or Xtravision.
  • It might do book reviews of classic reads
  • There would be featured hotels, restaurants, shops, services doing discounts.
  • The site would also be a place for all things free and cheap.
  • I would envisage the site would bring together some of the elements of Gumtree, Daft, Buy & Sell, Myhome.ie, Jobs.ie but in a trendier format. 
  • The website would also have paid for sections ‘on the couch’ where local therapists/career advisors/psychologists/doctors could give advice. They would pay for the privilege, but have the opportunity of getting more customers

Naivety isn’t unique

I love the naivety of it all. I actually said it is UNIQUE! The proposal continues….

This proposal is unique in that there is nothing out there YET which is so directly aimed at this recession-hit tech-savvy youth market. It may look like iGoogle, but it will be different – it will have so much more on offer. It has a bit of everything, which means people will stay on the one site longer than average.

I also find it interesting that I was thinking about user generated content even before going into business creating content for users rather than by users.

My development method would be first and foremost to act as an aggregator of sorts, but to make the site as user-interactive as possible so that the users create content, so there is more for others to read and more reason to come back to the site.

 What’s not included is the mobile vouchers

You know the way now you can get a barcode boarding card sent to your smart phone and can scan it at the airport to get through to security? I thought of doing that with discounts.

Why I’m sharing this

I am not naive enough to think I was the only person to have these ideas. I was probably one of many, but one of few to write them down into a crude business proposal. I didn’t know what I know about business, creativity or innovation now back then. I would like to know if such a site existed would you use it now, or would you have used it at any stage over the last few years?


I also have other ideas for web businesses. They require a lot of development work and investment and marketing and so on. When I finally get around to pitching these, it’d be great to have some ‘CloudCouch’ research figures.

One space versus two spaces after a full stop

When typing do you press the space bar one or two times after hitting the full stop key (or period for our US readers)?

Not sure? Go to the last document you have written and do a Ctrl+F (find) search for   (or just hit the space bar twice).

Priority spaces

As an editor, this is one of the first checks I will make to any content submitted to me for review. And I will replace each instance of two spaces with one space. That is how I do things.

Most people probably don’t notice or care whether they use one space or two. Even more do a mix of one, two, three and more spaces after a full stop.

Wikipedia kindly tells me that the habit of two spaces derives from the use of the monospaced font on typewriters.

Two is for typewriters

A Macbook Pro or a desktop PC is not a typewriter. If you did not learn to type on a typewriter, you’ve no excuse. If you learned to type on a typewriter it’s time to start changing your habits and getting with the modern world.

If there was ever an article I wish I had written, it is ‘Space Invaders, Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period’ by Farhad Manjoo of Slate magazine.

He says everything I could wish to say, or get interviewees to say on the one versus two space debacle.

I’m right and you’re wrong

Great takeaway points from Farhad’s article include:

  • Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong.
  • Because we’ve all switched to modern fonts, adding two spaces after a period no longer enhances readability, typographers say. It diminishes it.
  • One space is simpler, cleaner, and more visually pleasing
  • A page of text with two spaces between every sentence looks riddled with holes

Are you stuck in the 20th century?

What’s your take on it? Do you use one or two spaces after a full stop? Would you change having read this blog post, the article from Slate.com or indeed the Wikipedia section on spacing?

Have you experimented with your content?

Writing content once is difficult enough for most organisations, never mind two or three or more times. Experimenting with content is something Google wants people to do to make better websites. And as a result and Google Analytics users will see an Experiments tab under the Content tab over coming months.

Google Analytics content experiments

This will allow website editors to:

  • upload three different types of content to their site
  • add details of these in Google Analytics
  • choose the percentage of visitors who will see an alternative content description
  • add code to the site
  • review the conversion rates of visitors to the three different types of content

Speedier process

For organisations already doing A/B testing with e-commerce product descriptions this, according to Google, will make that job easier and faster.

Conversions wake up call

For those doing nothing – it is a reminder that the return on the investment of experimenting with written content is the chance to increase conversions.

Increased opportunity for designers and developers

It will require more tech expertise than the average content editor may have/have access to on a site. It includes inserting code – there are two options DIY or email your webmaster – meaning extra revenue generating opportunities for many a designer or developer.

Get your content ready

Here’s a video explaining it all. Why not start creating that extra content so you’re ready to go once this feature is rolled out?