We’ve been grappling lately with the issue of whether or not we should write a book on the Network Solutions story and the role that SAIC and the government played in building the Internet at a crucial juncture in its history. This juncture was the transition of the Internet from public to private ownership. There are many lessons to be learned from that experience, such as how public/private partnerships work during the transition period, and how each party can help ensure their success. In the case of the Internet, DARPA and the other defense agencies played a major role in making that happen.

We do have another alternative, which is to write a big idea book. We have discussed this option with an agent, and we were told that this kind of book would be of greater interest to publishers. One possibility would be an in-depth look at cybersecurity — the current and future vulnerabilities and what should be done to address them. Another big idea book would be to consider how to revitalize the American industrial base.

In the past when we’ve had these sorts of decisions to make we have solicited the advice of our blog readers. I ask your help again. Which approach for the book would you find of greatest interest, enough to want to buy the book? Please let us know your opinion on this matter as soon as possible.

By the way, the #1 story of 2009 on San Diego’s Xconomy.com website was The Untold Story of SAIC, Network Solutions, and the Rise of the Web. This tells me that there is some interest in the Network Solutions story.

Best wishes for a Happy New Year. I look forward to maintaining close communication with you during the next year. It has turned out to be very useful. And it’s been enjoyable to me personally to keep in touch with so many good friends and colleagues from years past.

– Bob

18 Responses to “Help Us Choose a Direction for the New Book”

  1. 1 Ed Nelson

    I’ll vote for Network Solutions Story.

  2. 2 CGordon

    Personally, I’d be most interested in the Network Solutions story, but I could be biased since I’m an SAIC employee and interested in the history of the company. I’m pretty sure my brother would vote for revitalizing the industrial base since he considers that one of the major problems the US has – losing those critical skills and capabilities to foreign countries.

  3. 3 allen herskowitz

    I personally like the “big idea” approach.
    In the current environment a couple of chapters on intellectual property ownership and management as it relates to cybersecurity would probably find an audience. Internet distribution of intellectual property has changed almost all of the assumptions about the ability to control and prosper from the creation and distribution of all manner of intellectual property. Solutions are not easily found, witness the music industry’s continuing battle with itself and its customers, and the emerging recognition of similar issues in the visual arts.

  4. 4 Bill Pierce

    Since the inception of SAI/SAIC the primary goal was to work on things that are important. While the history of the company is interesting and perhaps educational for those thinking about starting their own companies, re-building the industrial base is clearly more important.

    In the early days of off-shoring it was often argued that it was OK to lose the manufacturing capability because we still had all of the engineering here. Of course that situation wasn’t stagnant and now a lot of the engineering has moved off-shore too. All too rapidly we have lost our ability to manufacture anything and now we are losing our ability to design things which can be manufactured. All the while, our balance of trade with the rest of the world has grown evermore negative. If we could export services, particularly legal services, we could end the outflow immediately. But exporting services generally doesn’t work as so many have recently realized. The only other option to rebuilding the industrial base is a greatly reduced standard of living until our cost of manufacturing is competitive with the rest of the world.

    Writing a book on the history of the company and the Internet would be much easier, no doubt. But, writing a book that helps avoid 40 years of Great Depression, which is what I figure it would take to reduce our standard of living to that of a third world country, would be more important than I have words to say.

  5. 5 Don Moore

    I vote for you smart people to put your minds to internet security. I hope this has already been undertaken by those whose systems are most vulnerable.

  6. 6 Andre V Milteer, M.A.

    Robert & Mary Ann,
    Here’s my vote…”We do have another alternative, which is to write a big idea book. We have discussed this option with an agent, and we were told that this kind of book would be of greater interest to publishers. One possibility would be an in-depth look at cybersecurity — the current and future vulnerabilities and what should be done to address them.”

    This is your lane; follow your niche… ~Andre, M. (aka Your Biggest Social Media Fan)

  7. 7 Jacquelyn Yates

    it was hard to choose among the options, especially after recently reading The Cuckoo’s Egg. But in the end I come down for rebuilding the industrial base. Every world-leading country that gave up its industrial base declined in importance and ultimately in wealth and power over time. Maybe in the short run some Americans made more money by offshoring their production, but in the long run, foreign manufacturers just took their know how and sometimes bought their capital for pennies on the dollar. And what made overseas production attractive wasn’t just cheap labor. It was also political stability and transportation security that the U.S. taxpayer contributed substantially to create. The situation developed too far in the wrong direction, too fast. A book on how to recover while moving on would be an immense contribution.

  8. 8 Mike Cook

    Dr. B,

    I’d be interested in reading your views on privatization in general…

    Some public examples that could be covered:

    Toll Roads
    Social Security
    and the Network Solutions story of privatizing Domain Name Registration

    Examples could be introduced showing privatization efforts which worked and those that did not. Is there something that we can learn? Is there a common theme across failures and successes? Could key learnings from the Network Solutions experience help solve other privatization problems?

    The whole idea of privatization might have an analog in the relationship between Employee owned vs. Publicly owned enterprises. Does the migration of control to a private entity improve focus and productivity?

    Good luck!

  9. 9 Dr. Beyster

    Jacquelyn: Thank you for the advice on the book, which would be to use my experiences with SAIC to help the U.S. recover from the current technology/manufacturing drain. — Bob

  10. 10 Dr. Beyster

    Don: Thanks for the response. I’m very concerned about the current state of security in general, and Internet security in particular. There must be something we can do to secure the system from intrusion by the Taliban or Al-Qaeda. I had thought we were on top of this. — Bob

  11. 11 Dr. Beyster

    Ed: Some of us tend to agree with you — that we should write a book about something we know something about, namely, the role Network Solutions played in helping us build an employee-owned company by the name of SAIC. NSI played a big role in that process, and a separate story should be told about NSI — in more detail than we were able to in our book The SAIC Solution. — Bob

  12. 12 Dr. Beyster

    Andre: Thank you for your response. We’re getting many votes — right now it is pretty evenly divided between a big-message book and a book on the NSI story. — Bob

  13. 13 Dr. Beyster

    Bill: Thank you for your advice on the theme for the new book. Based on the responses I’m seeing, I’m leaning towards writing a book that will use the NSI example to demonstrate what can be done in this country by a small group of dedicated people adhering to the philosophy of keeping the company employee owned. There are lessons for other companies — public and private — which we might try to weave in. Seems like you vote for that. — Bob

  14. 14 Dr. Beyster

    Allen: You’re the first person to suggest that the new book on NSI could have strong overtones of how to protect intellectual property. As you know, that was a significant issue during the growth of NSI and SAIC. — Bob

  15. 15 Dr. Beyster

    CGordon: Thank you for the response to my inquiry on the book theme. I think we should stick to our knitting and write the NSI story. It’s exciting enough and there are good lessons to be learned by other companies, which could help them revitalize American industry. We know what we know. — Bob

  16. 16 Joe Hutsko

    A book that accomplishes both by following early founders and other players through a particularly interesting period or situation during founding period. Something focused and dramatic and human that ordinary readers can connect to, while cleverly working in backstory and overall big-picture at the same time. Speaking of pictures: Consider some of the best political dramas and thrillers as examples of how you can tell this story in a similar, mainstream way that at once educates readers (viewers?) on historical front, while perhaps latching into contemporary state of the connected nation (and world) with a relevant plot point/twist/connection that makes readers care enough to want to pick up the book in the first place. Think “All the President’s Men” meets John Markoff’s excellent “What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry.”

  17. 17 Dr. Beyster

    Joe: I like your suggestion of trying to include in the book mini-biographies of many of the key early people in the NSI story and what happened to them. It will be a difficult task, but I think it can be done. — Bob

  18. 18 Dr. Beyster

    Mike: Thank you for your post. I think from the responses on the blog, our readership would like us to put the emphasis on privatization — how it worked when NSI was in charge of the domain name registry, and the lessons that can be applied to other areas. I believe this is a good idea, and it is one we will pursue as we work on the book. — Bob

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