Big Data

The Art of Storytelling with Data

The Art of Storytelling with Data

People enjoy stories. Everyone likes listening to stories, reading stories, and watching stories unfold on TV or at the movies. Stories are the natural mode in which the brain processes information. At a fundamental level, stories are what make us human, and we can use stories to purposely increase engagement when we communicate with others – making them more likely to trust, understand, and remember us. The principle of storytelling engagement applies not only to individuals, but also to businesses. Storytelling is a powerful communication tool that businesses need to examine more closely. As Jonathan Gottschall noted in his book The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, “We are, as a species, addicted to stories. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.”

The Science Behind Storytelling

When we listen to presentations with boring bulleted points, certain parts of the brain get activated.

Broca's area and Wernicke's area

Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area.

Scientists call these areas Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area. Overall, these areas engage the language processing parts of the brain that decode words into meaning. However, when storytelling is involved, our brains become more stimulated. On the onset of a story the brain initially engages the Broca and Wernicke areas just as if it were listening to someone read a bulleted list of items, but as the story becomes progressively more engaging, other areas of the brain, such as the motor, sensory, and frontal cortices light up.

It’s possible to stimulate many parts of the brain with a well-told story. This is possible because, when listening to a story, in addition to the language processing parts in the brain becoming active, other parts of the brain that would be used if we were actually experiencing the events of the story become active as well. With this level of brain activity, people are more intellectually and emotionally invested in the story and the storyteller. Because people are experiencing a more profound brain event, they enjoy the experience more, understand the information at a deeper level, and retain the information for a longer period of time. With this knowledge, businesses can develop a firmer connection with clients and even prospective clients by telling them the story behind their company’s data.

Parts of the brain that are stimulated when listening to a story.

Parts of the brain that are stimulated when listening to a story.

Telling Stories with Data

All business and sales associates know that a good story resonates with clients. Stories help bridge the distance between quantitative data and people who must make difficult business decisions based on an

Little Red Riding Hood

Stories are memorable.

analysis of data. Michael Bostock, the data visualization and storytelling guru, notes that visualizations are how you can go about making an “abstract idea more concrete.” The core data used to create your visualizations can then act as the foundation of your story.  The story, like a novel, is the main drive of information – pictures or visualizations are merely decorative. The story is what makes clients care about and engage with your data. In fact, stories are the most effective way to contextualize data and interact with clients on an intellectual level. Structured narratives are sense-making devices that explain the over-arching patterns of data to clients. That’s why an over-reliance on data visualizations can hurt businesses when it comes to satisfactorily explaining data. Visualizations are excellent tools for data analysis, but visualizations are not self-contained explanations of data, although they can be an important step in understanding a set of data. Introducing a good story on the heels of your visualizations can work wonders in explaining data and eliciting trust in your business and data analysis skills.

Tips for Creating Customized Stories for Clients

  1. Identify the audience. As a storyteller, you naturally adjust your stories to fit your audience. When telling a story to a client you’ve just met, you use different wording and insert more explanatory information than if you were telling the same story to a colleague.
  2. Identify how you will structure the story – focus on the data points will you emphasize to your clients. Bostock urges data scientists (and data storytellers) to ground their data examples and explanations with facts, noting that “By demonstrating real-world usage, you strengthen the argument” and the story.
  3. Use visualizations to complement your story, but not to tell your story. Analytics tools are now ubiquitous, and so are visualizations, especially bar graphs, pie charts, tables, and line graphs. These tools focus on data exploration, not on explaining data or in creating an engaging, storytelling_pull_quotemeaningful story.
  4. Use fresh data.
  5. Reveal patterns. Patterns help explain data and illuminate what is special about each data set.
  6. Remember best-selling author and marketer, Seth Godin’s wise assessment that “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.”

Storytelling with SlashDB


SlashDB has made it our mission to make data retrieval a highly accessible, searchable, and intuitive process. Unlike data extracts, SlashDB API is an automated, live link to your business’ databases, allowing for faster and the most up to date access to data, so you can construct the most relevant and engaging story. 

Contact us at SlashDB and we’ll work with you to find the best API add-on configuration for your business and storytelling needs.

SlashDB Airzooka Raffle at PyData

SlashDB Airzooka Raffle at PyData

Welcome back, here’s a short blast from the past, a video featuring SlashDB that we just discovered on the web.

In November last year we were proud sponsors of the PyData conference. In this lightning talk we are outlining SlashDB’s main benefits. After the presentation we are using random number generator in Google Spreadsheet to raffle-off an Airzooka gun.

SlashDB Adds Support for 3Scale API Management Service

SlashDB Adds Support for 3Scale API Management Service

powered-by-3scale-croppedWe are pleased to officially announce that we have added support for 3Scale API Management service in SlashDB.

Powerful Technology Combination

With /db‘s capability to generate API on the Fly™ directly from databases this level integration creates the most powerful combo to quickly and reliably launch, manage and safeguard REST/HTTP APIs. API metering, billing and developer portal management are only some of the features that 3Scale’s platform provides. But an API management service cannot build an API for you – that is what SlashDB does.

In the past this kind of integration required manual modifications to proxy configuration files, which although powerful can be cumbersome to do. Now, all that is required is to use 3Scale web-based GUI for proxy configuration to generate required files, which then can be simply uploaded to SlashDB. Of course, manual tweaking of the files is still possible so SlashDB clients get the best of both worlds so to speak.

API Keys

Related to 3Scale integration, added is the support for authentication with API keys. SlashDB has always allowed for stateless authentication using HTTP Basic Authentication but many developers are accustomed to the convention of an API key. SlashDB now supports both a singular API Key (user key) or a pair of Application ID and Application Key. The keys can be associated with SlashDB accounts (users), which in turn govern access to data resources and system features. For making API calls authentication keys can be provided as HTTP headers or in a URL query string.

Immediate Benefits

There is no faster way to an API than from one’s database and SlashDB excels at making the connection, thanks to these key features and benefits:

  • API on the Fly™ with multiple resource representations to suit every purpose
  • Data Discovery and search readiness to visually orient developer or analyst in data resources available
  • SQL Pass-thru to leverage the full power of database querying capabilities in API
  • Authentication, resource authorization and encryption to control who gets to see what
  • Leverages investments already made in databases for seamless integration with HTML5, mobile, NoSQL and Big Data analytics

Enterprises, web businesses, data vendors, data scientists, quantitative analysts, DBAs, mobile enterprise applications developers and other user groups all derive unique benefits from SlashDB.

How can /db upgrade your data infrastructure? Learn about solutions and try it risk-free on your databases.

Turn any Database into an Online Resource with Assetcloud Powered by /db

Turn any Database into an Online Resource with Assetcloud Powered by /db

The news is outNovember, 14-15 we will be exhibiting /db at the NY Business Expo, booth #66 at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York City. Come join us, see /db in action.

Turn Any Database into an Online Resource with VT Enterprise Assetcloud Powered By /db

Financial industry first to adopt Assetcloud powered by /db to cope with data silos, become cloud-ready. Automatically generated REST API streamlines enterprise data management and paves the way for mobile enterprise applications.

Jersey City, NJ (PRWEB) November 06, 2012

VT Enterprise announces the immediate availability of Assetcloud powered by /db, a solution to the growing data access problem in financial industry. As institutions become increasingly information-driven, databases play a crucial role in driving critical business processes. However, organizations often encounter multiple databases in different departments that are hard to access. Assetcloud powered by /db solves this data management problem by instantly turning any group of databases into a “cloud” of online data resources that are easily searchable and accessible by authorized users and applications. [Read more]

“Big Data. Social Media.” Was a Good Event

The Data Warehousing Institute and Information Builders invited us to participate in their half-day conference “Big Data. Social Media.“. The event took place today in New York at the Information Builders headquarters. We enjoyed listening to diverse group of speakers including KPMG Business Intelligence Practice Director Glenn Peipert, startup Chief Data Scientist Alex Hasha and Information Builder’s own Sr. Systems Engineer Dan Grady. Some takeaway points for us were:

  • KPMG has created a comprehensive project roadmap for Big Data projects
  • Open source vendors are recognized by enterprise clients as fast-moving
  • Big Data is not useful until refined
    • Batching by geographies and text clustering are techniques to reduce problem scale
    • Data has to be tamed for fast iterative experimentation
  • Linking data from different domains such as social networks, sales, commisions etc. can be a challenge
    • (no doubt /db can help here by making databases appear as web services)