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Rx for the Internet

Michael Schwartz June 10, 2012

We hate to throw things away at my household. So when my wife suggested we use our expired meds and vitamins as art, pills became the medium for a weekend found materials project. The above “art work”, inspired by the diagram below it, was the result. All the other materials were also found: a scrap of plywood, spray paint from the previous occupant of our house, decade-old epoxy that we’d had in a utility drawer, and re-purposed scrap paper printed on an abandoned laser printer (connected via a pricey wifi print server…)

I’d been kicking around the idea of using OX graphs as art with some artists on the East tour, and this project seemed like a good chance to test that theory. OX graphs are not really that hard. Anything unfamiliar seems difficult. The building blocks for OX graphs are the contextual, relational and literal arcs and nodes.

If I can make an OX graph out of pills, how hard could it be? We will never make OX experts out of the world, however, popularizing some of the high level concepts is still useful. My goal has been to evangelize “the graph”–a new metaphor that will help people think differently about their data.

The graph gives us the right model to control access to parts of our data “tree”. Most people are familiar with the idea of tree based access control, for example “folders” on the file system. The graph preserves this metaphor.

The OX relational arc, which gives us a way to link data that is outside our graph. Context is important. If I tell you that my bank account has $1 million in it, its not quite as meaningful as when the bank verifies that information. The ability to control access to information both inside, and outside of our graph would revolutionize the capability of the Internet.

I’d like to see future art that conveys the ideas of OX in a less literal way, but showing my pill diagram has been helpful. When I show the original and the pill version, it seems to resonate more with people. Perhaps because its a more fun “analog” presentation. Or perhaps the idea of pink antihistamines tablets providing the context does make sense to people who are allergic to our current Internet identity infrastructure.

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Mike Schwartz

Mike has been an entrepreneur and identity specialist for more than two decades. He is the technical and business visionary behind Gluu. Mike is an application security expert and has been a featured speaker at RSA Conference, Gartner Catalyst, Cloud Identity Summity (now "Identiverse") and many other security conferences around the world.

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