Category Archives: Business

Digital Zaza LLC

My first business: Digital Zaza LLC

So I started my first company. Yay! It’s honestly nothing too crazy, more formality than anything else. My buddy who is working for an ecommerce startup got in touch with me and he wants me to do some Magento web development work. I’m pretty pumped for the opportunity to work with him and his awesome sounding team, and hopefully there is nothing but boatloads of money in our future.

This is the first time I’m working for a legitimate customer so I needed to make sure my business was legitimate. Although I could have just accepted check written out to my name, I decided to start an LLC for several reasons. One of the major reasons is that I have to pay taxes, and that means that I have to keep my personal finances separate from my business finances. I don’t want to be paying for business items with personal credit cards, etc. Having my own business account makes the whole tax process much simpler.

Another major reason for the LLC is that you get an Employer Identification Number (EIN). EIN’s are essentially the social security number of your business. When you have an EIN you are much more real to both other prospective customers and the IRS. What I mean by that is if a company wants to hire me, they will want to hire me as a company. They want me to write them a professional invoice. They want to see I am a registered business. Companies have to pay their own taxes. My ability to invoice, and their ability to write a check out to my LLC, allows for a paper trail that makes taxes easier for the company, the IRS, and myself. No one wants to write a check to some random dude and then explain to the IRS that they paid thousands of dollars to some guy Joey from New Jersey.

Another reason for the LLC is one that you hear about often. I’m limiting my personal liability. Generally an LLC separates my personal finances from my business finances. If I mess up in some disastrous way I will lose the capital of my company, but I generally will be covered from people trying to come after my personal finances.

Finally I wanted an LLC because it puts me in a potential position for future growth. While I don’t plan on this business getting too big, there always is possibility for growth. If my friend decides to dump more work on me than I can physically do or if I happen to be given work from another company, I’ll probably want to consider hiring employees or bringing someone on as a subcontractor. Having an LLC in place makes that process fast and much less painful.

You may actually be interested in some other form of business such as a sole proprietorship, S-Corp, etc. There are a lot of options for starting a business depending on what you’re trying to get into. But if you want a similar setup to what I have then I would probably recommend two links. The first is a step-by-step guide of what you need to start an LLC in the state of NJ. It’s good for general reading and getting a feel for if an LLC is right for you.

Staring an LLC in NJ

The best link is the actual state page where you can sign up for the LLC. Generally government websites are garbage. Information is all over the place and you have to spend hours or days trying to figure out where things are and what they mean. Once you figure it out you often have to go to some random building during some very specific time and then wait for days or weeks in the mail to get whatever it is that you need. This website and this process were the complete opposite. It couldn’t be any easier to setup an LLC then to just follow along the step by step process on this state website. So a huge shoutout to the New Jersey government for getting something right. It’s important to make something as beneficial as new business generation so painless and simple. Thank you.

NJ State Website for LLC

The site lets you search for and choose your business name, nominate your Registered Agents, sign up for an EIN, send in all the information that you have to, sign all documents online, and make payment via credit card right there all on the same site. At the end of the 15-minute process you have the certificate of formation, business registration, and EIN. Congratulations. You have an LLC.

With that information you can go right to the bank and open up a business account with whatever bank you prefer.

At this point in the post I should probably mention that you definitely might want to consult an accountant or lawyer to make sure you are doing this all correctly. Or you can go with a site like LegalZoom to get you up and running. I had some knowledge of these topics from going for my MBA and I also want to get a better understanding for law since it is such an important part of business. That’s why I went through the research to figure out what was appropriate for my situation. Often times it will be cheaper to have someone else do this work for you or prevent you from making costly legal or accounting mistakes.

For me this whole LLC process happened quickly. The time between my friend reaching out and me starting work was really fast. I didn’t have much time to think of a name. The name in this case isn’t too important as it mostly will be only used on the check that my customer writes. I don’t plan on actively marketing for work, but I want the LLC in case I ever get the opportunity to work or grow. I wanted a name that was pretty broad that I could use for a variety of work. While I’m doing web development for an ecommerce website today, I could definitely see myself doing engineering or business work and would want a name that could cover some general fields. I didn’t want Joseph Butewicz LLC because that’s boring and kind of implies a one-man shop even if I did have a lot of employees. I also didn’t want anything stupid like Innovative Technology Solutions LLC or Expert Engineering Consulting LLC. I hate corporate talk. I also wanted to make sure the domain name was available so I could easily add a nice website in the future. Since I had only a couple of minutes to think of something, I had two ideas. The first was Pro Peach LLC. The word peach is dear to me these days. The second was Digital Zaza LLC. Joey Zaza, or Zaza, or Za is a nickname of mine that goes way back. I kind of liked how Digital Zaza sounded. I like the word Digital, as technology is probably the area I most want to be involved with. Pro Peach LLC kind of really sucks so I went with the only option I had left lol.

I made sure the domain name was available and I picked that up as well. I decided to build a simple website for the business which I’ll talk about in detail here.

Sometimes when people have a business, especially a new one, they clutter their website with all sorts of corporate talk. Useless pages of text. Terrible stock images, etc. You’ve seen a million of these sites and they are disgusting. Just because you have a website, that doesn’t mean you need to fill it to the brim with pages and pages of worthless content. If anything I would argue that you always want to be evaluating your website (and your business, and probably your life as well) and be trying to remove unnecessary clutter that is there. Unclutter your page. Make your message clear. Since I don’t have much content, I wanted my site to be very simple. I don’t have lots of clients. I haven’t done any work for this company. Everything of interest deals with my personal programming life. I’m not sure if this company will continue with ecommerce development work or if it will morph into something else. I don’t know what my company will be. All I know is I wanted an LLC for the reasons previously stated. I just want to build awesome things with other people. Maybe a way to contact the business would be good.

So with all of those thoughts and ideas, I created exactly what I wanted to. I used Digital Ocean’s $5/month hosting plan, which is overkill for this site, but the cheapest you can really buy. I installed a LAMP stack as I have done many times before and got to work building the site.

There were eight things I wanted in the site.

  1. Name of the company
  2. A single sentence, almost like a slogan, giving you the slightest idea of what this is all about
  3. A link to my blog, specifically to this post. Remember, my company isn’t anything yet. It’s two days old, and while it has a customer, I have no idea what it’s future is. Everything that is of interest is related to my personal life.
  4. A way to contact me
  5. I want these four things in the center of the website, both vertically and horizontally.
  6. A font that plays off of the digital theme.
  7. This orangish, pinkish, salmonish colored background. I wanted to make a site with this color background for some time now and this was finally the opportunity lol.
  8. A favicon, that little icon at the top of your browser tab

The concept was very simple. As always the execution ends up taking way longer than expected. It’s remarkably difficult to center something both vertically and horizontally using CSS. Sure, I’m being a little dramatic, but it’s such a common thing to want to do and it always is so difficult. Instead of running through all of the different solutions for this problem, I’ll just say that I used flexbox. I’m happy enough with this rendering properly on the majority of devices. I doubt many people will visit this page in the near future, and I expect those people that do will have a reasonably up to date browser. This is a pretty bad assumption for a web developer lol.

Finding a font to use was pretty easy. I’ve used several font sites in the past and can recommend Font Squirrel, Da Font, and 1001 Free Fonts. There are other sites that you may use. I found a couple good fonts but my favorite was Silkscreen. Shout out to Jason Kottke for the Silkscreen font, specifically Silkscreen Expanded Normal. It’s exactly the right blend of digital and modern. Get Silkscreen here

For some reason I was having issues rendering this font on all of the different browsers I was testing. I must have been making some sort of syntactical mistake. The best way to get fonts to render on all of the devices is just to use Font Squirrel’s webfont generator. You upload your font and the generator will produce all of the different types of fonts you need along with the CSS that you can copy and paste over to your style sheet. Why waste your time writing it from scratch, and then wasting a bunch of time figuring out where your syntactical error is, when you can just copy and paste?

As for a way to contact, I really didn’t want to get away from the simplicity of the site. A contact page may have been alright but it’s kind of impersonal and definitely doesn’t fit with the idea of the site. I decided to find a free email-hosting site that would use my domain name and just link that email in a contact link on the site. Surprisingly Zoho is one of the few that has free accounts. It’s ad free too, which is great. You get up to 10 users with 5 GB storage per user for email. It’s exactly what I wanted for this site. If the site works well then I can see myself paying for their services will several other small sites. I signed up for the service and quickly had myself an email address that can send and receive to the digitalzaza.com domain.

Selecting the background color was easy enough. I had a really good idea of the color that I wanted. I googled around a bit to pick out some nice supporting colors. I usually use Google Image search for general ideas. If there’s a specific color I like then I’ll grab it via a color picker in something like GIMP. I often play around with the different color tools that show up when you search “color calculator,” etc. in google. Eventually after a little trial and error I had all of the colors that I wanted.

As for the favicon I just wanted the letters ZA in the Silkscreen font on the salmon background color. Favicons can be a pain in the ass to make all of the different sizes needed to support all of the different devices and browsers that use them. It’s best to just use one of the many great tools out there. Shout out to Philippe Bernard for the Real Favicon Generator. It takes your one image and makes all of the icons you need and generates all of the CSS that you need. Tools like this help accelerate the speed at which great things are built.

So that’s mostly it for the idea behind the business and the site. Putting it all together you get something that looks like this.

Digital Zaza LLC
Digital Zaza LLC

You can check out Digital Zaza by clicking this link. If it looks absurdly simple, that’s pretty much the intention. Over time this website may evolve into something more substantial, and that will be dictated by the growth of the business. But for right now I’m just a guy with an LLC who wants to build beautiful things.

Cheers,
Joe

Gatsby the Greatest

The Best Books of All Time. Classics, Tech, Business and Travel

New Year’s has come and gone. I am always trying to better my life in a variety of ways and New Year’s has always provided a good time to evaluate and adjust my actions. One of the resolutions for this year is to read more books. I don’t read many books because normally I am taking programming classes or watching tech speeches, etc. So I have decided to read a book a month in the New Year to further my learning.

In deciding what to read I initially asked some friends for recommendations. I also decided to search through various best book lists and come up with a list of my own. I came up with the following list using the following methodologies. First I searched Google for “best books of all time” and took all of the results from the first three pages and combined them into one massive list. I assigned a ranking so that books that appeared higher on the list were ranked higher, books that appeared on smaller lists were given a higher weighting, and books that appeared on unranked lists were given an average ranking. Doing something as trivial as this sure makes you appreciate Tim Berners-Lee’s push for the Semantic Web. A bunch of Excel formatting and some basic find and replaces got me the results without too much trouble, although I was tempted to crack out some regex’s to handle this. Overall the rankings for the 100 best books of all time are as follows.

  1. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
  2. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  3. 1984 by George Orwell
  4. The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger
  5. Ulysses by James Joyce
  6. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  7. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  8. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  9. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  10. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  11. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  12. The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien
  13. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  14. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  15. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  16. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  17. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  18. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  19. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  20. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  21. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  22. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  23. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  24. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  25. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  26. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  27. The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien
  28. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  29. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  30. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
  31. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  32. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  33. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  34. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  35. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  36. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  37. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  38. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis
  39. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  40. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  41. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  42. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  43. Charlotte’s Web by E B White
  44. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  45. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  46. A Passage to India by E M Forster
  47. The Trial by Franz Kafka
  48. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  49. Absalom Absalom! by William Faulkner
  50. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  51. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
  52. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
  53. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  54. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  55. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  56. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
  57. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne
  58. Native Son by Richard Wright
  59. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  60. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
  61. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  62. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  63. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  64. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  65. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  66. Emma by Jane Austen
  67. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
  68. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  69. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  70. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  71. Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
  72. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  73. The Ambassadors by Henry James
  74. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  75. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  76. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  77. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
  78. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
  79. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  80. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  81. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  82. The Odyssey by Homer
  83. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
  84. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
  85. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold by John le Carre
  86. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  87. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  88. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  89. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
  90. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  91. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  92. Tales of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe
  93. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
  94. The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
  95. Dune by Frank Herbert
  96. Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Celine
  97. The Iliad by Homer
  98. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  99. The stories of Anton Chekhov by Anton Chekhov
  100. Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

This list really represents an average of the top “Best Books of All Time” lists that show up in Google. You will notice there is no prejudice to separating fiction and non-fiction or restriction to books based on appropriate reading age. This is appropriate to me as fiction and non-fiction often have very blurred lines and differentiation between child and adult is sometimes as often blurred. The list has a lot of interesting results and it will be useful in helping me select which books to read. This is a great example of the power of the concept of averages.

Authors that appeared the most in my results are as follows.

  1. William Faulkner
  2. Ernest Hemingway
  3. George Orwell
  4. Charles Dickens
  5. Vladimir Nabokov
  6. James Joyce
  7. Virginia Woolf
  8. Fyodor Dostoevsky
  9. Leo Tolstoy
  10. F Scott Fitzgerald
  11. Joseph Conrad
  12. J K Rowling
  13. Henry James
  14. J R R Tolkien
  15. J D Salinger
  16. Raymond Chandler
  17. John Steinbeck
  18. Agatha Christie
  19. Jane Austen
  20. Toni Morrison
  21. Mark Twain
  22. Joseph Heller
  23. Franz Kafka

I decided to also calculate the top books based on some genres that I am interested in by searching “best programming book of all time,” “best travel book of all time,” etc. in Google and taking the first page of results and summarizing. This led to the following lists.

For travel:

  1. The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux
  2. In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin
  3. Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck
  4. Great Plains by Ian Frazier
  5. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  6. The Beach by Alex Garland
  7. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
  8. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  9. A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby
  10. Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger
  11. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson
  12. Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
  13. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
  14. As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee
  15. Coasting by Jonathan Raban
  16. Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson
  17. Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
  18. Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
  19. The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
  20. The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

For computers and programming:

  1. The Art of Computer Programming by Donald E Knuth
  2. The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas
  3. Introduction to Algorithms by Thomas H Cormen, Charles E Leiserson, Ronald L Rivest and Clifford Stein
  4. Code Complete by Steve McConnell
  5. The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering by Frederick P Brooks
  6. The C Programming Language by Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie
  7. Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code by Martin Fowler, Kent Beck, John Brant, William Opdyke and Don Roberts
  8. Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs by Harold Abelson, Gerald J Sussman and Julie Sussman
  9. Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software by Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson and John Vlissides (The Gang of Four)
  10. Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture by Martin Fowler
  11. Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister
  12. Programming Pearls by Jon Bentley
  13. The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder
  14. Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution by Steven Levy
  15. CODE: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold
  16. Head First Design Patterns by Elisabeth Freeman, Eric Freeman, Bert Bates and Kathy Sierra
  17. Rapid Development by Steve McConnell
  18. Working Effectively with Legacy Code by Michael C Feathers
  19. Modern Operating Systems by Andrew S Tanenbaum
  20. Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship by Robert C Martin
  21. Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter
  22. Test Driven Development: By Example by Kent Beck
  23. Coders at Work: Reflections on the Craft of Programming by Peter Seibel
  24. The Inmates Are Running The Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity by Alan Cooper
  25. Clean Code by Robert Martin
  26. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug
  27. Apprenticeship Patterns by Dave Hoover
  28. DOS for Dummies by Dan Gookin
  29. The Road Ahead by Bill Gates
  30. The Unified Modeling Language Reference Manual by Grady Booch, James Rumbaugh and Ivar Jacobson

For business and entrepreneur:

  1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  2. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
  3. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  4. Rework by Jason Fried
  5. The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M Christensen
  6. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E Gerber
  7. Good to Great by Jim Collins
  8. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B Cialdini
  9. Purple Cow by Seth Godin
  10. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
  11. The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank
  12. Choose Yourself! by James Altucher
  13. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  14. Mastery by Robert Greene
  15. Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuck
  16. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hseih
  17. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  18. First Break all the Rules by Marcus Buckingham
  19. The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker
  20. Out of the Crisis by W Edwards Deming
  21. The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M Goldratt
  22. My Years with General Motors by Alfred P Sloan Jr
  23. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
  24. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  25. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  26. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
  27. Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston
  28. The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau
  29. Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder
  30. The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco

For technology and engineering:

  1. To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design by Henry Petroski
  2. The Soul of a New Machine by Tracey Kidder
  3. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
  4. The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen
  5. Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution by Steven Levy
  6. The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That is Connecting the World by David Kirkpatrick
  7. The Existential Pleasures of Engineering by Samuel C Florman
  8. Accidental Empires by Robert X Cringely
  9. The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story by Michael Lewis
  10. The Chip: How Two Americans Invented the Microchip and Launched a Revolution by T R Reid
  11. The Second Machine Age: Work Progress and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson
  12. The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914 by David McCullough
  13. Inviting Disaster: Lessons From the Edge of Technology by James R Chiles
  14. The Essential Engineer: Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Our Global Problems by Henry Petroski
  15. Why Buildings Stand Up: The Strength of Architecture from the Pyramids to the Skyscraper by Mario Salvadori
  16. The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century by Thomas Friedman
  17. The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More by Chris Anderson
  18. Outliers: the Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
  19. Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture by Ross King
  20. The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering by Frederick P Brooks Jr

Overall I am pretty happy to have some good reading lists that are fairly unbiased and reflect the popular opinion of the average. Of course I won’t read each book directly in order and I likely will read books outside of these lists, but I will use these lists as tools and pick and choose books that are of interest or of potential benefit to me to read throughout the year.

Once I tackle enough of these books I’ll likely look into poetry, plays, and the best books from many of the world’s cultures that are severely unrepresented in these lists.

I hope everyone has a great new year.