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Chapter 6. THE PRINCIPLE OF ONIONS > Searching for Technical Help

Searching for Technical Help

Whether you need a walkthrough for a game or help getting your video card to work right, you'll find that the Principle of Onions can make your search a lot easier. (We'll discuss the topic of finding technical help in greater depth later in Chapter 25, “Getting Technical Support—Drivers, Cheats, Walkthroughs, and More.”)

Full-Text Engines

When I'm using a full-text engine for technical help, I try to start by simply expressing the problem that I'm having:

My screen is flickering. I think it's my BadBrand video card.

From that simple expression extract the relevant concepts—screen, flickering, BadBrand video card—and turn that into a search. Usually I add the word “problem,” which seems to focus the results:

|dog breed information

|FAQs, technical support searches in

|full-text engines|dog breed information searches in

|full-text engines|technical support searches in

|Google|technical support and

|searchable subject indexes|technical support searches in

|searches|dog breed information


|searches|for technical support

|technical support|searching for

|viruses|technical support on

screen flickering BadBrand "video card" problem

If that doesn't do the trick, keep the brand name and what the item is and the word “problem,” but shuffle the descriptive words around. You may say “screen” and someone else may say “monitor.” Someone might say “flicker” instead of “flickering.”


Usually general search engines aren't the best place to find support information. I recommend you use Google Groups for finding technical support instead of Google's Web search. The cool thing is that the Principle of Onions works as well on Google Groups as it does on Google's general Web search.

After trying that, cut the search down to just the brand name, item, and the word “problem.” If you still can't get results, try the brand name, item, and the word “support” or “FAQ.”

Searchable Subject Indexes

You're not going to find specific technical answers on Yahoo unless the problem is extremely popular and therefore extremely well documented (the computer equivalent of a car with an exploding gas tank). The best you're going to find are support sites for whatever you're interested in. So you might search for BadBrand "video card" support or even just BadBrand support. This is an option best suited for when you have a problem but you're not exactly sure how to describe it, or you're having a problem with a computer that could come from one of many components, and you're trying to find support for the computer itself.

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