Reification. I learned that word from Kim. In the immediate next breath he said from the stage that he was told not everyone knew what reify meant and that he would use a more approachable word: “thingify.” And therein I learned another lesson from Kim about how to present to an audience.
My memories of Kim come in three phases: Kim as Legend, Kim as Colleague, and Kim as Human, and with each phase came new things to learn.
My first memories of Kim were of Kim as Legend. I think the very first was from IIW 1 (or maybe 2 – the one in Berkeley) at which he presented InfoCard. He owned the stage; he owned the subject matter. He continued to own the stage and the subject matter for years…sometimes the subject matter was more concrete, like InfoCard, and sometimes it was more abstract, like the metaverse. But regardless, it was enthralling.
At some point something changed… Kim was no longer an unapproachable Legend. He was someone with whom I could talk, disagree, and more directly question. In this phase of Kim as Colleague, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to ask him private follow-up questions to his presentation. Leaving aside my “OMG he’s talking to me” feelings, I was blown away by his willingness to go into depth of his thought process with someone who didn’t work with him. He was more than willing to be challenged and to discuss the thorny problems in our world.
Somewhere in the midst of the Kim as Colleague phase something changed yet again and it is in this third phase, Kim as Human, where I have my most precious memories of him. Through meeting some of his family, being welcomed into his home, and sharing meals, I got to know Kim as the warm, curious, eager-to-laugh person that he was. There was seemingly always a glint in his eye indicating his willingness to cause a little trouble.
The last in-person memory I have of him was just before the pandemic lockdowns in 2020. I happened to be lucky enough to be invited to an OpenID Foundation event at which Kim was speaking. He talked about his vision for the future and identity’s role therein. At the end of his presentation, I and others helped him down the steep stairs off of the stage. I held onto one of his hands as we helped him down. His hand was warm.