How Big Is Your Data?

A corporate conference program

Illustration of Rob Ford on the front page of the Toronto Star
Illustration by Genevieve Simms

What you can expect at this year’s Massive Data, Massive Action conference (formerly Business Intelligence: Oxymoron No More!)

What is most important to your corporation? Synergy? Deliverables? Casual Fridays? Marketabilityosity? If you said yes to any of these, we at MDMA hope you’re enjoying your sad little life in 1998, though you might want to catch up with the rest of us…in the future!

By “the future,” we mean the future is now. And by “now” we mean Big Data, the frontier for twenty-first-century business innovation. Imagine a virtual Wild West for nerds, haunted by the ghost of Cowboy Steve Jobs, who, with an exabyte of data in each holster, patrols on his data pony alongside a flowing Rio Grande Data, which teems with salmon and pike—also made of data. Thrilling, isn’t it?

MDMA is all about exploring this fifth wave of the tech revolution, in which the sheer size of data promises to overwhelm and humiliate our feeble human minds. Will robots one day rule the earth? Obviously. Will they be benevolent, or will they feast on our souls? No one knows, save the robots of the future, which are currently harnessing incomprehensible volumes of data to travel back in time and enslave us all. (If this has you worried for your children’s safety, think what it could mean for your profit margins!)

With that in mind, you’ll surely agree that the business community needs to start dialoguing ASAP about Big Data. Conference participants will represent all sectors of the global economy, from leaders in finance and arms smuggling to the folks who brought you Pogs. While confidentiality agreements and various Interpol blacklists forbid disclosing the full list of attendees, some of our non-redacted corporate sponsors include Haus of Data, Humongodata, Notorious B.I.G. Data, Reebok, and Daddy Daycare II: Data Division. Movers, shakers, candlestick makers—everyone’s going to be here, like one big Big Data orgy, except fully clothed (probably).

On Friday night, delegates will be choppered in to our secret island location for the opening mixer, a Y2K Panic–themed speakeasy, during which a surprise celebrity (hint: Naomi Klein) will be roasted until she is reduced to a pile of ashes—of hilarity! Break out your dancing shoes for DJ Clearchannel’s set of Big Data–inspired drum and bass, and your vomiting shirt for the open bar. Especially enthusiastic delegates will have a chance for atonement at Saturday’s pancake breakfast and prayer circle.

Saturday also offers opportunities for peer-2-peer round tables, 1-2-1 partnerships, 2-4-1 pizza, and the pointless exchange of over 10,000 business cards. The day’s workshops will include B2B (business to business), B2C (business to customer), B2S (business to Satan), and SBLGDACOOSTWWHFA (screw business, let’s get drunk and cheat on our spouses, that’s what we’re here for anyway) models. Regrettably, C-3PO and R2-D2 will not be in attendance.

That night, participants will be treated to the conference’s keynote address, “My Data Can Beat Up Your Data,” during which delegates are encouraged to tweet, blog, robocall, and wildly fax live updates out into the cybersphere. Let’s turn this thing viral! (Please be advised that MDMA is not responsible for actual viruses contracted during the conference, be they virtual or venereal.)

For those not hungover or hospitalized, Sunday continues with our speaker series. Confirmed talks include “How to Make Your Employees as Smarter as You,” “Asia: Friend or Frenemy?,” and “Why ‘Brazilian’ Should Mean More to Your Business than a Spiffy Pubic Wax.” Accredited therapists will also be on site to support delegates who discover that rival companies have bigger data than they do.

By Sunday evening, as the conference wraps up and our IT guys destroy all video evidence of the weekend’s proceedings, we hope participants will emerge with a better understanding of how Big Data might influence their corporate best practices. Thanks to MDMA, the next time a client asks, “What the hell is Big Data anyway? ” you’ll no longer just stare blankly for a moment before you fling open the limo door and roll into oncoming traffic.

At Massive Data, Massive Action, the elite of the business world will meet—sometimes with one another and sometimes, unfortunately, with those pathetic, doomed chumps who are oblivious to their own inevitable failure. (Seriously, we’ve got one jagoff signed up who’s convinced that “bottled feelings” are really going to take off.) Join us for this opportunity of a lifetime! And by “us,” we of course don’t mean your future robot overlords; nor is the purpose of this conference to reprogram the world’s richest and most influential CEOs into an army of mindless drones.

Helicopter parking not validated.

This appeared in the March 2014 issue.

Pasha Malla
Pasha Malla compiled the 2015 found-poem collection Erratic Passion with Jeff Parker.
Patrick Doyon
Patrick Doyon received an Oscar nod in 2012 for Dimanche/Sunday, an animated short.

Join our community

Jennifer Hollett I have been digging into the pages of The Walrus Summer Reading issue and remarking at all of the contributions from our former and current Fellows. It reminds me that every issue of The Walrus is a result of a culmination of efforts (including lengthy fact-checking) from the editorial team, the emerging journalists they train, and the generous supporters who make all of this happen.

Through The Walrus Editorial Fellowship Program, we have the privilege of training the next generation of professionals who are passionate about the integrity of journalism. In the Summer Reading issue, 2021 Cannonbury Fellow Connor Garel wrote a piece on Frankie Perez and the art of breaking. Tajja Isen contributed an excerpt from her first book, Some of my Best Friends. Isen, who also began her career at The Walrus as a Cannonbury Fellow, is currently Editor-in-Chief at Catapult magazine.

Our 2022 Chawkers Fellow, Mashal Butt, was instrumental in making sure we got the facts straight in our Summer Reading issue, having fact-checked six features, including Sarah Totton’s short story “The Click.” And, you can look forward to a cover story on housing affordability by our 2022 Justice Fund Writer in Residence, JS Rutgers. (Rutgers is now a climate reporter for The Narwhal.)

Donations of any amount (great or small) mean that we can keep on training future journalists in the rigorous practice of fact-checking and editing. With your support, we can continue to keep The Walrus available to readers everywhere as well as help foster the next generation of reporters, copy-editors, fact-checkers, and editors.

With gratitude,

Jennifer Hollett
Executive Director, The Walrus