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The knowledge bases
John's earlier article on googling to solve problems

John's even earlier article on Go

Apple's knowledge base home page

Microsoft's knowledge base "home page"

Microsoft's knowledge base article about how to use their knowledge base

Wikipedia's general article about knowledge bases and the history thereof

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When you have an issue with your Windows or Macintosh computer, you want clear, correct information to answer your question or solve your problem; or you may just need an opinion on it. If you google something like a description of the problem, the text of an error message or even a natural-English sentence like “migrate my itunes to windows,” you're sure to get thousands of hits. Many or most of your results will be from forums, which are good sources of info, opinions and opinionated info, and this may be all you wanted or needed on the matter. Forums are web sites where the well-informed sign up to share what they know with folks who have issues that they can't solve on their own. Trouble is, it may be that no one is really screening just how well-informed the so called experts are, nor how clearly they can express themselves. Further, some folks with issues may not be able to distinguish between facts and opinions, and may not be able to decipher all the jargon and abbreviations used.

It turns out that Microsoft and Apple provide what are called, “knowledge bases” for the support needed when tough issues arise: no opinions, no jargon, just huge databases of web sites with articles written by their own technical staffs, and proofread by their own technical-writing staffs. These articles are designed to help any user to use a technology or just to understand a process or concept regardless of the user's level of technical expertise. In the case of Microsoft, there may even be included a clickable [Fixit] button that lets the web site load a patch directly into the computer that was used to access the article. This may or may not solve the issue, though it's usually worth a try.

The Apple and Microsoft knowledge bases have home pages that feature bare-bones search fields and not much else, so the searcher must be able to supply ballpark-accurate search terms to get the needed results. Giant corporations that they are, they might have invested in the kind of categorized database that Amazon has, just in case folks have no idea how to use a search field or which keywords to use to get the search started. Google or any other search engine may also be used to access the knowledge bases if you start the search string with “apple kb” or “microsoft kb.” So in the above example, you could google something like “apple kb migrate my itunes to windows” (but without the quotation marks.) The results will include, right near the top of the list, an article or two from Apple's own knowledge base on moving your iTunes from your old Mac into your new Windows box. Try it.
October 3, 2014

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