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A Reference Room of Your Own

When I was a boy in central Ohio and the Internet was barely an idea, I discovered a secret. If a question was stumping me — say, “Who led the American league in RBI’s in 1957?” or “What’s the leading export of Ecuador?” — I could call the reference desk of the downtown Columbus Public Library, and they’d look up the answer. I don’t know how many people knew about this service back in the 1970s. I sure never told anyone. (Didn’t want to clog up those phone lines — or admit that I was curious about Ecuadorian trade.)

When I was a boy in central Ohio and the Internet was barely an idea, I discovered a secret. If a question was stumping me — say, “Who led the American league in RBI’s in 1957?” or “What’s the leading export of Ecuador?” — I could call the reference desk of the downtown Columbus Public Library, and they’d look up the answer.

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I don’t know how many people knew about this service back in the 1970s. I sure never told anyone. (Didn’t want to clog up those phone lines — or admit that I was curious about Ecuadorian trade.)

But I always thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be cool to have a reference desk of your own?”

Now I have one. It’s called Refdesk.com. And it’s one of the most useful Internet sites I’ve encountered.

Refdesk is a crack house for data junkies — a Nirvana for fact seekers and information worshippers. It contains links to just about every site you’ll need to track down any nugget of knowledge — whether you’re after a movie quote, a medical definition, postage rates, or Ecuador’s balance of trade. (Hey, old habits die hard.) Refdesk’s index of sites is as comprehensive and easy to use as those of any major portal. Indeed, its front page has more content than most entire Web sites.

What also makes this site unique is its creator and his ethic. The man behind the Refdesk curtain is Bob Drudge, father of cyberscribe Matt Drudge. And while most site “vision statements” are blather spiked with banality, Bob’s is original and intriguing:

“Refdesk is not about revenue. Refdesk is not about traffic. Refdesk is not about promotional vehicles or any form of commercialism. Refdesk is only about indexing quality Internet sites and assisting visitors in navigating these sites. At Refdesk that is all that counts and that is all that will ever count. Avaritia facit Bardus — Greed makes you stupid.”

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Think of Refdesk as a hybrid of Yahoo, the World Almanac, and a squad of Navy Seal-trained reference librarians. It’s so good that if it allowed users to add their own links as I can do with CEOExpress, I’d make Ref Desk my start page. But even without that feature, Refdesk is indispensable.

Bookmark this site. Now.

by Dan Pink

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