abcIt’s no secret that hiring independent contractors has its pluses: You don’t have to shell out money for payroll taxes and you can skip the insurance benefits paperwork. But beware: If you directly hire someone as an independent contractor–whether it’s a freelance graphic artist to design your business brochures or a technology consultant to help you set up your Web site–your legal responsibilities aren’t completely lifted. You may be surprised to learn that hiring independent contractors can create liabilities for you.

Liability Loopholes

Sure, business owners who use independent contractors aren’t as liable for worker negligence as when they hire full-time employees. Let’s say you hire Eddie, a full-time employee who makes pickups and deliveries for your publishing business. One day, while Eddie is driving work to the printer, he hits a pedestrian who sues both of you. If Eddie …

dnodConsider the case of Mikasa v. Mikasa. One makes fine crystal and china. The other makes fine soccer balls and sports equipment. Although the two unrelated companies share a brand name and a geographic region, they’ve coexisted peacefully. After all, there’s little chance that a customer will mistakenly buy a soccer ball to place on the dinner table or accidentally kick a fine goblet past the outstretched arms of a goalie. But now, both companies want to be on the Internet as mikasa.com. And on the Internet the chance for confusion is high. It’s easy to conceive of a customer shopping electronically for porcelain and typing www.mikasa.com, only to be surprised by an offering of baggy shorts and odd spheroids. The reverse could happen too.

In a lawyer-free world, the logical compromise would be for one company to become …

isdnLike a growing cadre of industry experts, Connie Henry knows what it takes to get integrated services digital network (ISDN) hooked up in an office. Henry coordinates telephone companies’ installation of digital phone line service for Jetstream Communications’s customers. ISDN has become the high- speed Internet access of choice for business owners fed up with waiting hours to download graphics- heavy Web pages. It also allows products such as Jetstream’s Front Desk to provide the same top-quality telephone-handling features that you thought were only available to big business.

But getting an ISDN line up and running is not as easy as adding a second telephone line. The horror stories you’ve read and heard about the service are true. ISDN-speak includes an entirely new vocabulary, from switch type and version to NI-1 signaling and D-channel packets. You call to place an …

aholtThis is the story of a story that’s been rewritten so often, I should’ve used disappearing ink. In an effort to capture the online investment juggernaut on paper, the editors of this magazine gave me $70,000 (virtual money, of course) and told me to have fun. That was almost two years ago, and the original assignment involved comparing the investment options available on AOL, Prodigy, and CompuServe. But halfway through the project, my research became outdated when Internet investing took off. Then, when the online services changed their offerings and pricings, my work was rendered further irrelevant. Months later, I was sent back to square one again as new companies launched and old ones merged or moved their offerings. This brings me to a key caveat: The online investing world changes really fast.

Lesson 1: Know what you

mbfBuy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks. Please. Give me something to bring the magic back to baseball. Because by the time the season actually starts, I am a frazzled, strung-out mess. I’m in a rotisserie baseball league, you see, and I’m online. It’s a nasty combination.’ Last year I spent the entire preseason on the Internet, creating my own scouting reports, analyzing statistics, forecasting performances, and examining injury updates with the zeal of a first-year medical student. I ignored my wife and kids.

I missed meals. I didn’t sleep. But this year, it’ll be different. This year, I’m going to win it all.

Rotisserie baseball is a consuming passion. And as such, it’s hard to define. Most players stutter and mumble when they try to explain the phenomenon to the uninitiated. Glen Waggoner, one of the cofounders …