Powerball? Think again.

Here’s a great summary of the expected return on a Powerball ticket *even when a big jackpot is in play*. I have not checked the math but assume he’s done his homework to note that it’s not a good idea to buy tickets even when, as is the case at this moment, a huge jackpot is in play (unless the lottery has proportionate entertainment value for you).

Note that the before tax returns might actually be positive in extraordinary cases (as I think exist right now), but after Uncle Sam nabs his chunk of huge winnings you’ll be down on this “investment”.

Global community spirit

Over at Techmeme I’m struck by three stories that nicely showcase the importance of *community* to dot commers and to the expanding online universe.

The most interesting is that Yahoo Answers is going social, offering social networking as part of the answers concept.  I was bullish on Yahoo Answers a year ago and it appears they’ve done a great job at growing this project.   Incredibly the number of answers users is comparable to the number of Myspace people. This is not entirely apples to apples comparison because I’m guessing the Myspacers spend a lot more time online at Myspace, but if Answers can get the community ball rolling there is huge potential to become something of a “thinking persons” (or at least a “questioning person’s”?) Myspace.

The second item is Kevin Rose reporting that Digg has a *million* users. That is quite a milestone (though a long way from the approximately 60-100 million users claimed by Yahoo Answers and Myspace. I’ve never really understood the appeal of Digg as more than a superficial way to identify oddball news, feeling that dedicated diggers tend to prefer goofy stories rather than substantive ones, but the concept is brilliant and provocative.

Third, and perhaps most significant, is SONY’s Playstation 3 virtual world that launches this spring. Critics are raving about SONY’s brave new world, some suggesting it’s superior to the top virtual world “Second Life” which suffers from technical complexity, a steep learning curve, and a lot of skeptics who think second lifers are just escaping their first lives. It seems to me the Playstation world could become the “Myspace” of virtual worlds and captivate the teen crowd that already is practically living online ( WI or XBOX could also get smart super fast and get their own virtual world going. Both appear to be on the road for more widespread adoption as gaming systems than Sony’s PS3, though this can all change quickly).

Ringtone Scams are about 99% of that business … so beware!

I  *hate* the ringtones business because it represents so much of what is wrong with the internet and wrong with people.   Here’s one post about some of the millions of problems that plague the Ringtones Scam industry – a very sad excuse for a business enterprise.

However, with Apple jumping in to the Ringtones biz I’m hoping Apple may bring some standards because they don’t seem like a company that would do the Ringtones “business as usual” scam which is to offer what looks like a free ringtone and then hook unsuspecting or stupid teens into  a “contract” that dings their parents cell phone bill indefinitely.

I’m ranting about this after running into a banner I clicked on out of curiousity which led to a “Zoltar Ringtones” scam with the fine print below the fold that, to the extent I could figure out what the heck it was saying, was going to bill me 5.99 per *week* plus other charges.

This is a dispicable industry, and it’s amazing to me that it has not yet been regulated appropriately.    The solution is simple – nobody can enter into these contracts without a *written* signature from the credit card holder.

Apple announces the new iPhone. Stock soars, tech peeps rave.

Apple’s news today is shaking MacWorld and the Tech world.  They’ve got an iPhone, and it’s looking nothing short of spectacular.

In contrast Microsoft’s “big news” today was more pitiful than interesting:
“Zune will have video games by July 2008” 

July of 2008?  MS dudes, at the rate you are innovating you should just be hoping you’ll still be around in 2008 to play with your own little Zune.

Elfyourself – have yourself a virally marketed Christmas

Know any coffee and art lovers?   Give them The Coffee Calendar 

Viral marketing approaches (not to be confused with computer viruses) take clever little online ideas and try to make them spread by online “word of mouth” which usually means friends emailing other friends.

This year’s big viral winner may be ElfYourself, which is showing nothing less than stunning traffic over the past few weeks – looks like it’s beating out many major sites and might even approach the top 100 sites this week as it spreads. [nope – looks like it peaked near Christmas at about site 250 per Alexa measures].

My friend and neighbor Ilana sent me an Elfyourself and within 30 minutes I’d sent out one myself even though I usually avoid sending people anything “fun” online to avoid cluttering up their boxes.

Expedia vs Elfyourself traffic per Alexa. Alexa is not very reliable but it’s good for generic approaches like this. Note that it’s “today’s” measure rather than the three month average that is of interest here since the site just startup up a few weeks ago: Alexa traffic comparison