Advice: Creating your own business in MD

When I first formed my business in 2013, I first searched throughout businesses in Maryland to make sure no one else had my business name. I had already bought a URL that I thought was nifty, so I decided to make that my business name. Luckily, the only other company that sounded similar was focused on innovative tech -- not associated with anything too bad, didn't sound like amy naughty words in other languages, etc. 

All you need for registration of an LLC in Maryland is an Articles of Organization and a Maryland residence. It's surprisingly easy. I formed my business in Baltimore, since that's where we were living at the time, and I had the address as my home address. I had to submit a form called the "Articles of Organization." (If you have any partnerships, it's also good to have a formal partnership agreement to formalize your business structure, but that's usually for legal purposes.) I decided to form an LLC since it's just me, and I wanted limited liability (to protect my personal assets). I then went to the State of Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation, asked for an "Expedited Service Request Form" so that I could get my paperwork the same day, and received a "Corporate Charter Approval Sheet". (The overall cost was fairly cheap, I think. The City of Baltimore will send me a renewal form each year, at which time I can choose to renew the business name, make any changes to contact info/address, or let the name/license expire. I need to double-check the fees for this year.) 

After a few days of filing for my business license/registering it with Baltimore, I got a letter from EFTPS with my Employer-Identification-Number. Once I got this EIN, I could open up a bank account for checking, savings, and a business credit card. 

According to a friend: "As for taxes, each member of the LLC would pay taxes on their % of profits on their own personal income tax returns. You only need to send out a W2 form to an employee if they worked in the past year (in an S corp you would have to have a W2 form for yourself). You might also want to look into 1099 forms for independent contractors." 

We currently use Turbo Tax for preparing our family tax returns, and because I'm the sole employer/employee of my small business, it counts as my income. I do have a contractor, so I keep track of my payments using QuickBooks, which helps me automatically generate a 1099 for my contractor and estimates/invoices for my clients. 

Some tips:
- I think that MD now has an online service for helping to start small businesses:
I haven't been through all of it, but it looks pretty useful!

- Keep track of all of your expenses! Especially if you account for them on your taxes -- things like mileage, business dinners, (the size of your home office divided by the size of your home times your utility bills)... I keep a "daily log" so that if I were to get audited, I have a record of all of my purchases. The daily log is currently a Google spreadsheet, so that I can access it at any time. :) I also recommend using QuickBooks and TurboTax.

- If you work for the government, email your Ethics Officer to make sure there aren't any potential conflicts. She'll walk you through which forms to fill out. I had to fill out an HH520 form, and take the usual ethics online courses. 

Good luck, business folks!


Article: A Picture's Worth 1000 Words: Visualizing Data with Infographics

Summary: In a world immersed in big data, how can we best show the messages gleaned from our findings? Enter data visualization and infographics -- artistically innovative ways to see the big picture as an actual picture.

One of the trending buzzwords in the media today is "data visualization," also commonly found with "infographics" and "effective presentation skills." According to Google Trends, "data visualization" was a top trend in April of 2004 (99 headlines), sank down in September 2006 (24 headlines) and is now again on the rise in October 2014 (97 headlines). Interestingly, Google Trends also shows that "infographics" appeared in a paltry 8 headlines in April 2004, and didn't start increasing until 2010; now, "infographics" is nearing the same level as "data visualization," with 88 headlines in October 2014.

As found on Wikipedia, "data visualization is viewed by many disciplines as a modern equivalent of visual communication." Wikipedia defines "Infographic" as "graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly. They can improve cognition by utilizing graphics to enhance the human visual system's ability to see patterns and trends. The process of creating infographics can be referred to as data visualization, information design, or information architecture." In a world filled with big data, analytics, and statistics, the products of data visualization lets us quickly see the big picture from all the details. Infographics are commonly used to sell a message in seconds. If a picture's worth a thousand words, high quality data visualization skills are priceless.

So, what makes a "good" infographic? Edward R. Tufte, deemed "The Leonardo da Vinci of Data Visualization" by the New York Times, wrote in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (1983) that "Graphical excellence consists of complex ideas communicated with clarity, precision, and efficiency." Think about the information you need to present. What is the purpose of the data? What are the trends? Are you trying to emphasize a difference? Would you like to pinpoint a cause? If you showed this graphic to folks completely unfamiliar to the topic (e.g., your grandparents), then they should be able to understand your point.

The AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow Affinity Group for Federal Innovation and Research Evaluation (FIRE) has listed a few resources for thinking about data visualization on our website. For example, Andrew Abela created a Chart Chooser Diagram that lets you select a chart based on the message that you want to send. John Schwabisch has a poster called "the graphic continuum," which outlines some of the methods for displaying different types of data. Ann K. Emery gave a talk earlier this year to The Washington Evaluators and described the Data Visualization Checklist, which she created with Stephanie Evergreen, who's teaching a class through The Evaluator's Institute in Washington, DC during January 2015. This checklist includes guidelines for the number of words to put in a title, how to play a hierarchy, how to label data, etc. These are simple starting tips, but definitely good ones to follow when creating a presentation or presenting data.

Interestingly, some agencies are historically very text-prone. For example, some colleagues at the Department of State showed me a fairly typical email that alerted employees about a huge upcoming event by listing names of streets and intersections that would be closed. By contrast, the Washington Post had a map that highlighted the streets to avoid. A simple idea, but it was more effective in getting the message across.

Many, many, many blogs showcase excellent examples of infographics. Some examples include:
  • Randy Krum's Blog has examples based on filmography, 20th century death, beer colors, good tools for making your own infographics, and much more.
  • FlowingData picks out projects from genealogy to shooting patterns for the Washington Wizards to the most cited research papers.
  • CreativeBloq shows animated infographics, comic book characters, and fonts.
  • ThreeStory Studio showcases videos and interactive media alongside 2D infographics.

Warning: These things are addictive. You could probably browse these collections for just an hour, and yet feel extremely productive -- lots of information has been packed in easily-digestible pieces. That said, perhaps the best aspect of infographics is the "light bulb effect" -- instead of being flustered by complicated data, the audience can now see a new idea that makes them think, "Aha! Yes, I get it." We, as scientists, should definitely be building our own data visualization toolboxes as we enhance our own communication skills.

This article was written for AAAS's blog, "Sci on the Fly".

Image: Infographic of Infographics as found via Infographic List


Forward: Pun0graphy

From a forwarded email:

·  I tried to catch some fog.  I mist.

·  When chemists die, they barium.

·  Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.

·  A soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is a seasoned veteran.

·  I know a guy who's addicted to brake fluid.  He says he can stop any time.

·  How does Moses make his tea?  Hebrews it.

·  I stayed up all night to see where the sun went.  Then it dawned on me.

·  This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I'd never met herbivore.

·  I'm reading a book about anti-gravity.  I can't put it down.

·  I did a theatrical performance about puns.  It was a play on words .

·  They told me I had type A blood, but it was a type-O.

·  This dyslexic man walks into a bra .

·  I didn't like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.

·  A cross-eyed teacher lost her job because she couldn't control her pupils?

·  When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.

·  What does a clock do when it's hungry?  It goes back four seconds..

·  I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me!

·  Broken pencils are pointless.

·  What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary?  A thesaurus.

·  England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool .

·  I used to be a banker, but then I lost interest.

·  I dropped out of communism class because of lousy Marx.

·  All the toilets in London police stations have been stolen. Police say they have nothing to go on.

·  I took the job at a bakery because I kneaded dough.

·  Velcro - what a rip off!

·  Cartoonist found dead in home.  Details are sketchy.