Beta Watch: Cc:Betty, Home-Account, and SmartyCard

Artwork: Chip Taylor
Cc:Betty: Make Any E-Mail a Message Board

Cc:Betty lets you transform any e-mail message into an online discussion thread, complete with storage for videos, photos, and files. You simply compose your message as usual, add any attachments, and then include betty@ccbetty.com in the cc ("carbon copy") field of your e-mail form. You and all of your recipients get a notification from the Web service letting everyone know that the e-mail message and its attachments now have a home on the Cc:Betty site. Your friends can reply to your e-mail in the usual way, or they can make a comment or upload new material at the Web site. Cc:Betty does its job quite competently, but whether this service solves any fundamental problem isn't clear to me.

Home-Account: Fire Your Mortgage Broker

Home-Account aims to demystify the mortgage process and make it easy for you to refinance your home without using a mortgage broker. The service asks you a series of questions about your financial situation, checks your credit report, and then gives you a list of home-loan offers to choose from. The company says it does not receive commissions for matching consumers with loan companies. According to Home-Account, that means consumers will get the best deals, since lenders would rather obtain customers through Home-Account than pay commissions to mortgage brokers. Joining Home-Account costs $10 per month.

SmartyCard: Educational Baksheesh

Any parent who has struggled with a child whose grades aren't what they should be learns that a little bribery sometimes helps. Consider SmartyCard a bribery facilitator. Parents set up accounts that provide rewards--in the form of CDs, toys, video games, and books--for dutiful scholars. Kids take tests on subjects that are appropriate to their grade level (the site now serves those in grades 3 through 6). Acing a quiz on a topic like rounding off numbers earns your little Einstein points toward a reward.

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