Carrickfergus Borough Council Minutes

Reading Tony’s post regarding the minutes of Belfast City Council meetings made me curious about my own local Council. The Council website contains minutes for the Council meetings from February 2001 until September 2005 in Word format.

I decided to read through some of the more recent minutes to get some idea as to what the Council is about. I was really not expecting Council meetings to be opened with a scripture reading and prayer. The meeting on 1st August 2005 even had a short sermon. Why on earth would there be a sermon at the start of a Council meeting?

I was also surprised at some of the colourful language used to describe the Planning Service. Phrases like “monumental blunders”, and “the Planning process was a shambles and lurching from one crisis to another”. I’m going to have to read some more of these things as I still don’t have a clue what the Council is about – but just not tonight.

Online Christmas Shopping

Marty and I buy Christmas presents for about 40 people. This year I’m determined to buy at least 90% of these online. I keep records of our previous Christmas spending and last year I still had to trek round shops to get about 30% of the gifts. (I do realise that most people don’t chart their shopping progress using spreadsheets and graphs but I like to.)

So far this year I’ve only been to two shops. One of these was in Amsterdam and I didn’t go in looking for Christmas presents. The other was Toys R Us. I had thought to use their online shop to buy presents for my niece and nephew but the shipping costs put me off. These aren’t obvious as they don’t appear on the basket. The basket told me that a higher rate applied but didn’t say what this was. I clicked on the appropriate link and was told the following:

“When you add products to your shopping cart the appropriate charge will be added automatically but not displayed.”

Why? If the charge is applied surely they could show me this on the basket page. Having to start the checkout process just to find out the delivery charge is a waste of time. And once I realised that they were going to charge me £4.95 to have one item delivered I decided to call in to one of their shops on the way home from work last Wednesday night instead of ordering online.

It did have one nice feature. When I went to checkout the site informed me that there was a multi-buy offer that I hadn’t made use of. There has to be a better way of saying this than “You have not qualified for the offer (s) below:” – but it’s still a good idea.

This year my shop of choice is It gets easier to use all the time and their pricing is very competitive.

Weblogs and Why I Read Them

I really like Jakob Nielsen’s article on “Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes”. Mainly because it has reminded me that blogs are actually web-sites. That sounds silly but I don’t read blogs on a web browser but through an aggregator. The only time I’ve looked on the web at some of the blogs I read has been to find the RSS feed.

I’m not going to redesign my blog based on his guidelines because I don’t write this blog for a wide audience. I don’t really expect it to be read by anyone other than people who know me. One of the issues he talks about is trust and the problems that new readers face in trusting what has been written on the blog. He suggests having biographical information on the blog about the author and also having a picture of the author. Neither of these things would make me trust an author. I’m not even sure that it would make me think that the site was more credible.

I’ve taken a look at the blogs I read to try to work out why I read them. I have them divided into three main categories. The first of these are “work” blogs. I have to read these or I wouldn’t be able to work from home effectively. Then I have a category for “people I know”. I read lots of blogs just to help me feel connected to people who don’t live close to me anymore or to keep up to date with what’s happening to a variety of people in the Perl community who I only get to see at various conferences and events during the year. It doesn’t matter to me if their writing isn’t well structured or if they like to give their blog posts strange non-descriptive titles like “Skadi, a muse by my side, a bride at my feet, a skate through obsession”.

The third category is “people I don’t know”. Why do I read these blogs?

I read these blogs because they have been recommended to me by people I trust. It’s not that I trust the authors of the new blogs but that I trust the opinions of the people who recommended them. One of the blogs in this category belongs to Simon Willison. I only started to read this blog because Tony linked to it at some point in the past. I knew nothing about Simon other than the posts he made. I didn’t recognise him when I met him at EuroOSCON and it was only when he posted “Things I learned at EuroOSCON” to his blog that I made the connection. Once I’ve had a blog in my aggregator for a while I make the decision to keep it or not based on whether or not I want to read it – at that point other bloggers opinions don’t matter.

So trust, when I first read a blog, isn’t about how well a site is designed or how much information I can find out about the author. It’s all about the other bloggers who recommend the site and the other people who take note of the opinions found in it.