In order to learn how the things work here I'd like to know what is the problem with this question:

Did the cold war affect the development of the internet?

The close reason said:

Unclear what you're asking

My goal in that question is to know if the Cold War had some effect in the origin of the internet or their development, and what were those effects in their origin or development.

I don't see why it is unclear. How can I make on topic that question?

  • 2
    Perhaps people thought "what were the influence" was too broad and vague. Do you have a specific "effect" in mind? How does the wikipedia article on the internet's history fail to answer your question?
    – Semaphore
    Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 16:09

2 Answers 2


Thank you for asking. I am always glad when someone engages the community and asks how to participate better, and I'm doubly glad when someone asks how to improve a question. I believe that is a vital part of H:SE.

I can only offer my personal opinion. First, make the title a question. That helps make it very clear what you are asking. Second, I think the close reason is incorrect. I agree with you that what you are asking is relatively clear. I don't believe I voted on this; if I had, I would have suggested that it was trivial; as the comments indicate, the answer can be found with a Google search. The easiest way to improve the question is to do (and document) the preliminary research.

Part of the problem is that no matter how you intended your question, questions that ask "What was the influence of X on Y?" tend to fall into two groups:

  1. Homework questions - the teacher/instructor/professor has taught to this question and the student hasn't bothered to do the reading/research/attend the lectures. These are bad questions for H:SE because as stated they are really only relevant to that class.
  2. Beer and Pretzel questions - someone asked a random question and rather than do any research, they come to H:SE and ask for others to do the work. These also frequently fall into the "Gorilla vs. Shark" category of questions where there isn't an answer, there is no meaningful way to reach an answer, there is no agreement on what a good answer would be or how to recognize it, and even if we found an answer, nobody would really care. This kind of question is excellent for Symposia at the Pub, but very bad for Stack Exchange.

In the case of your question, I would first have rephrased it to "What influence did the cold war have on the formation of the internet?" Then I'd have included some preliminary research. First I've have defined /referenced the two terms.

  • Al Gore created the internet; On 3/9/1999, the internet sprung forth fully formed from his his forehead like Athena from Zeus' skull. The internet is defined as a set of tubes through which pictures of cats flow.

  • Charles Stross' Laundry file defines the cold war as the conflict between subterranean extraterrestrial entities and a possessed cat. (sorry for the spoiler). As such the cold war began prior to the beginning of recorded civilization and ended in 2012 at the end of the Laundry Files. The key features of the cold war are a fixation on exotic mathematics and computer programming.

(in case the pop culture references aren't obvious, those answers are wrong; no matter how amateur your research, you can do better than those two bullets.) I would have used Google and Wikipedia (and possibly Snopes) to check to see if there are any existing theories about the origin of the internet, and I would have referenced that research in the question so that people don't waste their time searching out the obvious.

Sometimes it is also useful to understand why you're asking; what difference does it make if the cold war influenced the internet? If the cold war didn't influence the internet are you looking for what did influence the internet, or are you actually looking for knock on effects of the cold war on the civilian technological base?

  • Thanks, I undestand what you are saying, I will edit the question to make it more focus and better Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 4:00
  • 2
    Another problem is that "influence" isn't really well defined. Butterfly effect means that you can probably claim that anything influences anything else, in some way. Specific avenues/methods of influence being asked about would narrow the question down.
    – DVK
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 20:21
  • Thanks @DVK, good point. Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 19:15

I think you have the beginning of a potentially valid question, but as it stands right now the question does not contain enough information for a user to know with a good degree of certainty what you are looking for.

You should try to add what you may already suspect is the answer. So, something like "Did concerns about Soviet spies at the Department of Defense impact the way that ARPANET was developed," or "Did the fear of a nuclear weapon detonation impact on the effectiveness of existing communication technologies change the way the internet was developed?" You need to make the question more specific, and just add some more information.

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