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

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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 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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