How to ask a good question / Help Us Help You

Community forum is NOT a helpdesk

every time I see this statement, I feel it’s wrong.

For me what you try to say is

Community forum is NOT a paid helpdesk.

That statement seems to fit more what you try to say

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But it is not a helpdesk. It’s a community forum where users try to help other users.
I’d happily take a fee for in depth support but my knowledge of openHAB in not infinite.
I know nothing of KNX or ZWAVE for example. This where the community aspect comes in.
Other users familiar with these technologies will try and help, on their own time, and on their own terms.
If the answer of the question is in the beginners tutorials of the first paragraph of the binding docs then, I understand the frustration.


But it is not a helpdesk. It’s a community forum where users try to help other users.

I was a helpdesk at my first job
I have done many community forums

Personally I don’t see a difference.

Also with a helpdesk, there is first line, second line and even then not everyone know everything. That’s ok. We don’t need a statement like “we are not a helpdesk” to cover for that.

Hell the openhab community forum is doing a lot better then a lot of commercial helpdesk.

and yes helpdesk personel get as frustrated as everyone here about the lack of respect.


I agree!


Exactly, this is not our job…

A helpdesk has opening and closing hours and people in place getting paid for it
You can expect things from a helpdesk that you can’t from the forum for that reason. Your either paying a subscription or have bought their product. Neither is true for openHAB.
That is the difference.

Think of it this way:
Community forum = Charity
Helpdesk = Multinational company

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No, it’s to the point.
A helpdesk is paid for, is with the same company that makes money from selling the software, has opening hours, Service Level Agreements and has dedicated personnel with access to all internal documentation and developers if needed.
None of this applies to this forum.
But people don’t know or don’t want to know. So please stop spreading that view of yours, it’s plain wrong and not helpful.


Exactly, this is not our job…

hence why I said

Community forum is NOT a paid helpdesk.

Helpdesk = Multinational company

no, there are heldesks also at 10 people companies
more over the best helpdesk are.


A helpdesk is paid for, is with the same company that makes money from selling the software,

hence why I said what you try to say is

Community forum is NOT a paid helpdesk.

1 Like

I said “think of it this way” it was not meant literally.
The Community forum is not a paid helpdesk. We are not paid. It’s not a helpdesk, it’s a community.

1 Like

The Community forum is not a paid helpdesk. We are not paid. It’s not a helpdesk, it’s a community.

that is my whole point

why not add the word PAID to that title.
it makes it much clearer

Because it’s not a helpdesk, paid or not


When one uses the term “helpdesk” one pictures in the back of their mind a series of people (perhaps only one) whose job it is to answer questions, be knowledgeable of the system in question, and in general is motivated (usually by a salary) to provide a rapid, friendly, and satisfactory level of support to the user. The important feature is that these people are dedicated to the job of providing helpdesk services.

We don’t have that. The people who answer questions are not always all that knowledgeable. Answering questions is none of our jobs. Our only motivation is that OH is our hobby. We don’t have tiers of support levels or a triage system put in place. It’s frankly amazing this forum works at all let alone works as well as it does, and that’s the magic of open source.

We cannot promise or ever hope to provide the level of timeliness, completeness, or accuracy implied by the term “helpdesk”. But it should not be a surprise that many companies who have embraced open source development make their money by providing support services like a help desk.

As Vincent said, we are a community of users who enjoy helping our fellow users with whatever knowledge and time we can spare. Sometimes we’re wrong. Sometimes questions go unanswered. Sometimes responses are not timely. We must, can, and do have to expect more of our users in helping themselves first (hence the above posting).

The distinction is one of function, it is one of expectation and consequently I agree with the majority of other respondents. OH doesn’t not provide a help desk based on any definition of that term in common usage. We can’t provide a level of service to meet those expectations.


Interestingly to me, this forum provides better timeliness, completeness and accuracy than a certain cloud services company whom I won’t name which I am currently paying for the privilege of being able to submit technical incidents.

In point of fact I have never seen a real “helpdesk” that was as capable as the volunteers here.


When one uses the term “helpdesk” one pictures in the back of their mind a series of people (perhaps only one) whose job it is to answer questions,

hence why I use paid . it’s only when it’s a paid helpdesk when it’s a peopels job.

general is motivated to provide a rapid, friendly, and satisfactory level of support to the user.

When I remove the motivated by salary, this is the ext definition of what is happening here.
Or at least what I would like.
Yes people are motivate and usually do it better then helpdesk, that is why I prefer community supported software

Some of the discussions I see, are around the friendly part.

I see people reacting no so nice because they see users asking questions in the wrong way.
I understand the frustration, yet I think it usually helps to stay friendly.

We cannot promise or ever hope to provide the level of timeliness, completeness, or accuracy implied by the term “helpdesk”

The term helpdesk does not imply any of these.

  • as said multiple times by me and others , this community does better then all helpdesk I know. so why bother.

I feel a strong energy for people to not call it a helpdesk. yet in reality you react to the fact that you are not paid to answer.

What could help is talk about explicit about the lack of SLL


I agree. I think the OH forum is unique even among open source projects in the quality and timeliness of the help it provides. But I think my point is we can’t promise to keep it up. Power users of the forum come and go and there isn’t always someone to pick up the slack. A lot of questions that are poorly worded or do not provide enough information or are just really specific never get answered at all. If we were a help desk, paid or unpaid, I don’t think we could get away with that. I certainly would expect a help desk to freely ignore “trouble tickets” for any reason.

I’m certain this is mostly an argument over semantics. And if you want to call exactly what we have now a help desk, by all means. I wouldn’t and I don’t know that many would.

However, if you want to turn the forum into something more like a help desk, I cannot say I’m for it. I think it might demotivate some of the contributors and actually hurt our progress. And it will increase the frustration of the end users having a place to submit trouble tickets but never get a response.

I totally agree with this. I cringe at the way others and sometimes even myself have answered a question. Or should I say failed to answer a question .

Were I king for a day I’d decree that all poorly worded or poorly asked questions be left unanswered at all and we could have a bot come along and say something like:

Hello, this is the forum bot.

It looks like you asked a question that did not receive any responses. There are a lot of reasons this could be the case. Please see (link to above posting) and see if any of that advice applies to your question. If not, it might be something no one currently on the forum knows how to answer.

Then we as users don’t need to leave our terse little responses and can go freely about our day and maybe some of this attitude will dissipate. But I’m not king and I don’t know if such a thing is feasible or possible or if anyone else thinks its a good idea.


For my small contribution I’m content with a simple like.:hearts:,:grinning:

I think it’s a great idea.:+1: You certainly have my vote for KING.:grinning:

I second this one.

I know some users find it easier to just jump into a community and ask, rather than to try read the docs or do some effort getting into this stuff…
But others users are struggling trying to even understand, (I have been there, and still is). They may not even know how to answer those questions on the #10 of the first post. They´re probably highly frustrated when they enter the community. I do feel sorry for those, (because I have been there). And I feel even more sorry, when I see some of the reactions from the community on their request for help.

Openhab isnt just one single and easy peace of software. Openhab is alot of highly difficult things. Linux running behind is a total no-go for many people out there. openhab is filled with bindings which doesnt apply for commercial status. It´s open sources which means, there is actually no quantee. Anything can (and probably will) go wrong, doc´s mostly isn´t written for new users. And specially not users who dont have any knowledge in computer stuff in general.

All this makes openhab very difficult, in general. Running into problems with something which is very difficult, does NOT make things any better. (I know this from my own situation atm, struggling with some fatal problems, I cant seem to find any solution for).

I understand how frustrated it can be to see the same question asked again and again… But insted of beeing focused on correcting the users asking, a better solution could be to focus on, WHY so many ask the same question… What can be changed to avoid all these questions over and over again… Somewhere something is wrong and probably could be optimized. This is were focus should be.

A small example.
Each time I look for the latest release of an snapshot binding, I´ll have to search the forum and scroll through several messages, (maybe even several threads too) hoping to find a link… And I honestly wonder, why is it like this… Why isn´t there an easier way to find whats typically is beeing asked for? If I should help myself here, I would bookmark each message with the link to a binding… But when the developer then update and make a new version, my link is useless.

If I was a new user and searching for a binding (snapshot) I would probably end up asking insted of using hours trying to search for it. In this case, it´s not the users doing anything wrong, in my opinion… It´s the structure of the way things are handled on this community. And I do believe it could become more, ‘user-friendly’ , insted of just pointing at the users, telling them to go search the community and trying to filter does zillions of answers from eachother… It just isn´t always the best solution.


If you are using a development snapshot of a binding then you are signing yourself up to be an alpha tester or even sometimes a development tester. You really should be pretty highly knowledgeable with both the technology and the binding to use a developer snapshot. And if you are such a person, you probably already know where to look. If you are not such a person, you probably shouldn’t be using that version of the binding. If you are a new user you DEFINITELY shouldn’t be using a developer snapshot of a binding.

If you are a moderately experienced user, you should be using everything at the same version. So either this user should upgrade their entire oh to the latest milestone or snapshot version.

It should be rare in the extreme that ANY users upgrade just one add on to a different version from their base OH version. Inexperienced and new users should do so only with the help of an experienced user.

Therefore, IMHO it should be hard to find the jar files to upgrade just one binding for new users.

I agree with most of the rest of your post but not with your example because that isn’t something that is part of of normal operating procedures and should only rarely be done. We should not go out of our way to make this easy.

And for the record, the latest successful snapshot built jar files can be downloaded from

That does not hit the point well. There’s not many specific questions to re-occur again and again (as a long term supporter I think I have quite a good overview which entitles me to claim that).
Most truely re-occuring questions in turn violate in fact multiple conditions we’ve raised in our manifest (post #1 of this thread). They’re just too open (i.e. not specific), incomprehensible at times and almost always clearly show that the poster has not put in the amount of time and effort into searching and reading docs himself that we expect him to put in before we feel it’s worth and fair spending our time to answer it (if possible at all).
Now ask yourself why that sometimes results in replies to contain a negative tone. That’s not intentional, we apologize and correct ourselves when we notice, but even without that’s still better than to ignore the post, no ?

As Rich already commented on, your snapshot example doesn’t really apply. Yes even us, those power users this applies to, would like to have more information from the developers. But it’s often just not there for a number of reasons, often because it’s used in specific environments where it just works but these are unknown to us so we cannot work out the difference to a user’s environment who has problems.
I’m not saying things cannot be improved. Note it’s essentially different people (with little overlap only) to
a) do the core development, b) do the documentation and c) do the support here on the forum.
All of these people are heavily resource-constrained and don’t have the full set of capabilities to do a) - c).
On c), we tried streamlining things by creating the manifest. While of course it would be a desireable solution, we cannot afford spending the amount of time it takes to individually teach OH to any beginner. The fact remains that beginners must bring their share of effort and willingness to try things for themselves. The manifest explains what we expect them to bring, and if they do, noone of us will refrain from trying to help as much as we can.


Please read Chris Jackson’s first answer in the topic " Z-Wave devices remain unknown after update.
The users look to me to be ordinary OH users.
By the way thanks for the link.