December 19, 2021
Stories of Kim Cameron

Kim Cameron LaughingSince Kim’s passing, I’ve been reflecting on his impact on my life and remembering some of the things that made him special. Here’s a few stories I’d like to tell in his honor.

Kim was more important to my career and life than most people know. Conversations with him in early 2005 led me to leave Microsoft Research and join his quest to “Build the Internet’s missing identity layer” – a passion that still motivates me to this day.

Within days of me joining the identity quest, Kim asked me to go with him to the first gathering of the Identity Gang at PC Forum in Scottsdale, Arizona. Many of the people that I met there remain important in my professional and personal life! The first Internet Identity Workshop soon followed.

Kim taught me a lot about building positive working relationships with others. Early on, he told me to always try to find something nice to say to others. Showing his devious sense of humor, he said “Even if you are sure that their efforts are doomed to fail because of fatal assumptions on their part, you can at least say to them ‘You’re working on solving a really important problem!’ :-)” He modelled by example that consensus is much easier to achieve when you make allies rather than enemies. And besides, it’s a lot more fun for everyone that way!

Kim was always generous with his time and hospitality and lots of fun to be around. I remember he and Adele inviting visitors from Deutsche Telekom to their home overlooking the water in Bellevue. He organized a night at the opera for identity friends in Munich. He took my wife Becky and I and Tony Nadalin out to dinner at his favorite restaurant in Paris, La Coupole. He and Adele were the instigators behind many a fun evening. He had a love of life beyond compare!

At one point in my career, I was hoping to switch to a manager more supportive of my passion for standards work, and asked Kim if I could work for him. I’ll always remember his response: “Having you work for me would be great, because I wouldn’t have to manage you. But the problem is that then they’d make me have others work for me too. Managing people would be the death of me!”

This blog exists because Kim encouraged me to blog.

I once asked Kim why there were so many Canadians working in digital identity. He replied: “Every day as a Canadian, you think ‘What is it that makes me uniquely Canadian, as opposed to being American? Whereas Americans never give it a thought. Canadians are always thinking about identity.'”

Kim was a visionary and a person of uncommon common sense. His Information Card paradigm was ahead of its time. For instance, the “selecting cards within a wallet” metaphor that Windows CardSpace introduced is now widespread – appearing in platform and Web account selectors, as well as emerging “self-sovereign identity” wallets, containing digital identities that you control. The demos people are giving now sure look a lot like InfoCard demos from back in the day!

Kim was a big believer in privacy and giving people control over their own data (see the Laws of Identity). He championed the effort for Microsoft to acquire and use the U-Prove selective disclosure technology, and to make it freely available for others to use.

Kim was hands-on. To get practical experience with OpenID Connect, he wrote a complete OpenID Provider in 2018 and even got it certified! You can see the certification entry at https://openid.net/certification/ for the “IEF Experimental Claimer V0.9” that he wrote.

Kim was highly valued by Microsoft’s leaders (and many others!). He briefly retired from Microsoft most of a decade ago, only to have the then-Executive Vice President of the Server and Tools division, Satya Nadella, immediately seek him out and ask him what it would take to convince him to return. Kim made his asks, the company agreed to them, and he was back within about a week. One of his asks resulted in the AAD business-to-customer (B2C) identity service in production use today. He also used to have regular one-on-ones with Bill Gates.

Kim wasn’t my mentor in any official capacity, but he was indeed my mentor in fact. I believe he saw potential in me and chose to take me under his wing and help me develop in oh so many ways. I’ll always be grateful for that, and most of all, for his friendship.

In September 2021 at the European Identity and Cloud (EIC) conference in Munich, Jackson Shaw and I remarked to each other that neither of us had heard from Kim in a while. I reached out to him, and he responded that his health was failing, without elaborating. Kim and I talked for a while on the phone after that. He encouraged me that the work we are doing now is really important, and to press forward quickly.

On October 25, 2021, Vittorio Bertocci organized an informal CardSpace team reunion in Redmond. Kim wished he could come but his health wasn’t up to travelling. Determined to include him in a meaningful way, I called him on my phone during the reunion and Kim spent about a half hour talking to most of the ~20 attendees in turn. They shared stories and laughed! As Vittorio said to me when we learned of his passing, we didn’t know then that we were saying goodbye.


P.S. Here’s a few of my favorite photos from the first event that Kim included me in:

Kim and Craig Burton Gesticulating Mike Jones, Drummond Reed, and Kim Dick Hardt Mike Jones Kim with Coffee

All images are courtesy of Doc Searls. Each photo links to the original.

One Response to “Stories of Kim Cameron”

  1. Doc Searls Weblog · Remembering Kim Cameron on 19 Dec 2021 at 7:00 am #

    […] Stories of Kim Cameron, by Mike Jones […]

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