business intelligence

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.

URLs – Following the Trail of Associative Thinking

URLs – Following the Trail of Associative Thinking

We all understand that the human mind does not operate in a linear fashion. Despite this, people routinely rely on linearly arranged materials (reports, spreadsheets, articles, etc.) to review or study new information. Such materials are often organized into sections on individual topics, with each section consisting of paragraphs featuring a specific idea (effectively building a plodding, linear structure). This is antithetical to the associative nature of the human mind. It is only natural, then, that throughout history we have dreamt of machines that would one day allow us to review information and data in multilinear and tangential fashions.

“As We May Think” Is How We Really Think

Memex Machine

Bush’s Memex machine as visualized in the original print publication in The Atlantic.

In 1945, Vannevar Bush published his renowned article, “As We May Think,” in which he discusses the associative nature of the human mind. Bush also wrote at length about the inadequate structure of data storage and his vision for a machine, the Memex (Memory Extender) that would mirror the associative qualities of the human mind while also relieving people of the burden of scouring through endless indexes for information. Bush maintained that the human mind “operates by association” and that once we grasp an idea, our minds “snap instantly to the next [idea] that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain.”

Bush’s admiration for the power of the human mind is evident from the following quote: “the speed of action, the intricacy of trails, the detail of mental pictures, is awe-inspiring beyond all else in nature.” It is natural, then, that Bush would propose the building of a machine that would mimic the abilities of the mind. Bush envisioned the Memex as operating with the speed and associative capBush Pull quoteability of the mind, in other words, a machine that would literally become an extension of memory and thought, stating that “selection by association, rather than indexing, may yet be mechanized.” Bush envisioned the mechanization of association by having the user of the Memex “build a trail” or mind map. This process of joining or linking information was an early call for the need and capabilities of URLs.

Data Pointers

There are many disadvantages to traditional data storage – one of the biggest disadvantages being that users must rely on complicated queries to search through linear, tabular data in order to find specific information. Computer memory is even more rudimentary – a contiguous string of seemingly meaningless zeroes and ones. In order to make use of computer memory, natural information gets digitized, transformed programmatically into appropriate data structures and stored as memory. Once this is accomplished, data can later be retrieved and interpreted as program logic at a location address or pointer which must also be memorized.

Data pointers have been used for years (since 1964 to be exact) to improve data retrieval and to help programmers ruminate about data at a higher level of abstraction. A pointer is a value that references or points to another value stored somewhere else within a program memory. Essentially, acting as something of a signpost, allowing users to more easily find the data they want to review. The obvious downside to this method is that the data pointer is limited to data contained within one machine – making building distributed systems problematic.

SlashDB as Your Innovative Solution

SlashDB technology takes the concSlashDB Logoept of data pointers to the next level by using Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) as pointer structured data resources. SlashDB automatically assigns each data resource a URL which allows data to be sourced from one machine to another. This not only helps users navigate data and associate specific pieces of data more easily than ever before, but also allows software architects to think of disparate data in similar terms as if that data were contained within the program’s memory.

For instance, a URL data pointer for a customer table will lead to a pointer for a specific customer within that table, which will, in turn, lead to a specific property of the customer, such as an email address or invoices. Data exposed at this granular level, like small breadcrumbs dropped along a logical path of thought, provide a trail or map that allows programmers to build applications spanning multiple machines. URL data pointers coupled with SlashDB technology sync seamlessly with thought processes and patterns, allowing URLs to perfectly imitate the highly associative nature of the human mind and memory.

SlashDB has made Bush’s concept a reality, and, in doing so, takes his vision of associative technology one step further by creating unique data pointers in the form of URLs for each piece of data – providing associative footholds for the mind to use with the greatest ease possible. SlashDB thoroughly understands that tools which share the same associative capabilities of the mind increase utilization and heighten productivity.

Mind Map

Mind Map

Associative technology melds with the mind, allowing for a rapidity of exploration based on association. This results in an intricate network of relationships that can range from the highly related to the tangential to the most tenuous of connections, all of which can work to create new and novel conceptions of data and data usage.

SlashDB has made it our mission to make data retrieval a highly accessible, searchable, and associative process.  If you think our innovative methods will help streamline your business, contact us and we’ll work with you to find the best solution for your needs.


Is Amazon CTO’s Call for Simplified Solutions a Shout-Out to SlashDB?

Is Amazon CTO’s Call for Simplified Solutions a Shout-Out to SlashDB?

SlashDB is proud to share the news that leading technologist and CTO of Amazon, Werner Vogels, recently posted an article on API technology that mirrors our own beliefs and technological developments. Vogels’ article examines technology trends of 2016, specifically the benefits of adopting API technology. Vogels’ thoughts and ideas about API technology and development so closely match our own endeavors in streamlining data storage that we really have to share his article. You can read Vogels’ article in full here or read below for a recap of the highlights.

Simplified Solutions

In his article, Vogels notes that the call for building simpler systems will continue to soar in 2016. He believes that adopting APIs is the ultimate answer to the quest for simplified data storage. Vogels touts the many benefits APIs offer, especially when paired with a cloud platform. Specifically, he asserts that the cloud is the perfect platform for constructing APIs because it offers both scalability and low investment costs.

Vogels believes that APIs in general (and cloud-based APIs specifically) are the future of data storage. This notion is supported by a careful study of technology trends which reveals evidence that APIs are the simplified solution to the increasingly urgent problem of data storage. APIs, as Vogels points out, enable organizations, big and small, to develop at exponential rates, with the potential to shoot off in unexpected and exciting directions.

Most importantly, Vogels notes how adaptable APIs are to new and legacy software, stating:

The great thing about APIs is they can be consumed internally as well as externally. We see not only new software getting APIs but also legacy software components like the system-of-records being wrapped with APIs such that new product innovations can access the legacy systems.

SlashDB API Joins Internal and External SystemsThis statement especially delights us at SlashDB as we have provided services for new systems and API add-ons for existing systems for years. In fact, Vogels’ sentiments and high esteem of APIs adheres so closely to our own beliefs and practices here at SlashDB that we now feel something of a personal kinship with him.

Victor Olex, founder and CEO of SlashDB, stated that he is thrilled that SlashDB’s ideas are now validated by a luminary such as Vogels. SlashDB has been an advocate for advancing the API ecosystem to legacy systems for years and we’re very happy to be joined by someone with Vogels’ background and experience.

SlashDB as Your Simplified Solution

SlashDB provides a “what you see is what you get” interface that allows users to access and retrieve data with ease, relying solely onSlashDB logo their intuition to guide them through the database. Our API add-on creates hyperlinks for each piece of data, enabling increased efficiency and workflow. We’re fully committed to creating APIs with accessibility, searchability, and speed.

SlashDB’s API solution is available in the Amazon Web Services Marketplace.We also provide on premise installation – contact us and we’ll bring our simplified API solution directly to you.

Join us in our mission to create a simplified database and development ecosystem, a solution that will usher us into a new age of technological innovation.

API Gateways – Gateways to the Future

API Gateways – Gateways to the Future

Amazon recently created a stir when they released their very own API Gateway. Their announcement generated a new interest and, in some cases, renewed interest in APIs and API gateways. At SlashDB, we’re glad for any news that stirs up API and API gateway chatter – after all APIs and databases are kind of our thing. This chatter has raised questions for some business owners – about APIs in general, API gateways more specifically, and, most importantly, how API gateways can help business.

What is an API?

First, let’s breakdown what API stands for: Application Programming Interface. That’s a great start, but what exactly is an application programming interface? It’s actually pretty simple.

Applications are software – smartphone games like Angry Birds, Applicatation Programming Interfacesocial networks like Facebook, and commonly used computer standards like Microsoft Excel are all examples of applications.

Programming is simply the code that computer scientists use to build and interact with an application.

An Interface is the landscape on which two or more different applications overlap – allowing them to communicate.

So to put it very simply – APIs allow computer scientists to interact and communicate with applications.

A good way to visualize this concept is to image an API as a helpful and untiring office intern. The intern acts as a middleman between the programmer and the application – ferrying requests from the programmer to the application and returning the requests to the programmer after a brief chat with the application.

Now that we’ve got a good idea what an API is we can focus on API gateways.

What is an API Gateway?

An API gateway sounds cool and somewhat mystical, a kind of magical portal to another land or dimension. What’s even cooler is that an APIAPI gateways gateway really does act like a portal (or, at the very least, a nifty shortcut) to important information you want to extract from your application.

Essentially, an API gateway acts as a filter – cutting through all of the API traffic to retrieve your requests quickly and efficiently.

How Will an API Gateway Help Your Business?

An API gateway will help keep you on track. An API gateway increases processing speed without impacting the performance of backend systems. Even better, an API gateway will make you more organized, efficient, and productive by helping you to get to the data you need by a more direct and secure path.

SlashDB as an API Gateway

SlashDB acts as an API gateway – a lightweight shell for any application or database that instantly provides a central access point. With SlashDB the content in your application or database becomes SlashDB logoaccessible through authorized web and mobile applications. Our technology allows you to access your data through multiple platforms and – huge bonus – creates a unique hyperlink for each individual piece of data which streamlines your ability to extract data swiftly and efficiently.

At SlashDB were committed to accessibility and that’s why our technology acts as an API add-on or gateway and implements a “what you see is what you get” set-up. SlashDB allows users to access and retrieve data with ease, relying on their intuition to extract the information they need rather than relying on complicated search queries.

SlashDB has made it our mission to transform APIs into highly accessible, searchable, and efficient workplace tools. If you think an API gateway will help streamline your business, contact us and we’ll work with you to find the best solution for your needs.

Flashback Friday: Computer Scientist Who Invented Debugging

Flashback Friday: Computer Scientist Who Invented Debugging

This week at SlashDB we honor Grace Hopper as our Flashback Friday forebear. Hopper is one of the most accomplished and well-known computer scientists in history – having famously popularized the terms “bug” and “debugging” 1 we so often use today.

While many remember Hopper only for her association with these terms, her accomplishments in the field of computer science are equally memorable. Hopper was one of the first programmers in history – a singular distinction that makes her worthy of our attention.

So let’s flashback and remember the many amazing achievements of Hopper – sometimes known by the nickname “Amazing Grace” 2 for her remarkable contributions to computer science.

Hopper began her career as a mathematics professor at Vassar, having earned her PhD in mathematics at Yale.3 In 1943, during World War II, she joined the United States Naval Reserve and was assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at Harvard University. While there she worked on one of the first computers, Mark I, which computed mathematical tables used for the Manhattan Project.4

Hopper's logbook with the moth ("bug") displayed.

Hopper’s logbook with the moth (“bug”) displayed.

After WWII Hopper remained at Harvard as a research fellow and worked extensively with the Mark II and Mark III computers. It was while working on Mark II that Hopper popularized the term “bug.” Hopper reportedly loved recounting the story of the night the computer stopped working and after much troubleshooting it was discovered that a moth caught in one of the relays was the cause of the problem5 – an actual bug in the system – and presto our favorite computer term was born. Had Hopper not felt the patriotic duty to serve her country, we may not be bandying about the term “bug” in reference to computer glitches – which we can all agree would diminish our lives.

Hopper’s most lasting contribution to computer science (other than the anecdotal hilarity of the origin of “bug”) was made later in her career while working at Remington Rand, where in 1952 she developed the first compiler.6 Two years later her team delivered the first compiler-based programming languages, FLOW – MATIC and MATH – MATIC. Hopper’s FLOW – MATIC language was later extended and re-developed into COBOL (COmmon Business Oriented Language).7 While many have never heard of COBOL, it is the forebear of English-like syntax programming languages like SQL.

Hopper had a strong belief that programming languages should be as easy to read as English. Her efforts to make this a reality are truly outstanding. Hopper’s leadership in developing programming languages like COBOL is the reason why programmers now use if/then statements in place of the 0s and 1s in binary code.8 This influence paved the way for highly readable programming languages like Python and Ruby that we use today.

Hopper was all about simplicity and efficiency, qualities that we work to achieve at SlashDB. Like Hopper we want not only solutions and results, but the simplest solutions and the most dynamic results. That’s why we spend so much time listening to our customers’ views and ideas – tracking down and “debugging” any imperfections to meet the needs of our users. At SlashDB we deeply admire Hopper’s pioneering work and strive to emulate her visionary leadership.

The USS Hopper at sea.

The USS Hopper at sea.

We can’t claim to be the only ones to admire and applaud Hopper for her contributions. Hopper retired from the Navy for the final time in 1986, at the age of 80 (YOLO and Hopper was truly determined to make the most of her time – she went on to work at Digital Equipment Corporation until her death in 19929). At her retirement ceremony she was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the highest non-combat award given by the Department of Defense.10 In addition to this Hopper has a U.S. Military vessel named after her, the USS Hopper,11 a distinction held by very few women. She is also a recipient of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation (the second woman to be given this award) and is the first ever recipient of the Computer History Museum Fellow Award.12

Hopper’s contributions and memory remain very much alive today, despite her death more than 20 years ago. We continually evoke her lively spirit whenever we claim that there’s a “bug” in the system. Let’s hope that in another 20 years this small part of Hopper is still alive.


  1. “The Queen of Code,” NPR, accessed October 7, 2015. queen-of-code-would-have-hated-that-title.
  1. KeriLynn Engel, “Admiral “Amazing Grace” Hopper, Pioneering Computer Programmer,”Amazing Women in History, accessed October 7, 2015.
  1. “Grace Hopper Biography”, accessed October 4, 2015.
  1. Cohen, Bernard (2000). Howard Aiken, Portrait of a Computer Pioneer. Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
  1. KeriLynn Engel, “Admiral “Amazing Grace” Hopper, Pioneering Computer Programmer,”Amazing Women in History, accessed October 7, 2015.
  1. Ogilvie, Marilyn and Joy Harvey (2000). The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science:  Pioneering Lives from Ancient Times to the Mid- 20th Century. New York: Routledge.
  1. Ibid.
  1. KeriLynn Engel, “Admiral “Amazing Grace” Hopper, Pioneering Computer Programmer, Amazing Women in History, accessed October 7, 2015.
  1. Ibid.
  1. Ibid.
  1. “Grace Hopper Biography”, accessed October 4, 2015.
  1. “Grace Hopper – Computer History Museum Fellow Award Recipient”., accessed October 4, 2015.


Flashback Friday: Charles Bachman

Flashback Friday: Charles Bachman

We currently live in a world filled with technological possibilities. Computers and software like SlashDB help us in our daily lives by providing us with information, helping us track information, and storing information – streamlining our lives, allowing us to work smarter, not harder. Flashback Friday is about acknowledging our computer science forebears, remembering their innovation and leadership, and honoring them for their accomplishments.

So let’s flashback and remember the contributions of Charles Bachman – inventor of the first database management system, an achievement that makes him uniquely qualified to be our first Flashback Friday forebear.

Charles Bachman, while not as well-known as Bill Gates or Steve Jobs (whose death has done nothing to diminish his media presence), is still a true leader in the field of computer science. Bachman was developing software before developers were a thing. In fact he is credited with creating the first database management system ever in 1963 while working at General Electric.1

Bachman created the Integrated Data Store (IDS), a database management system that is still influential today. One of the most striking facts about Bachman is that his ideas about databases, now more than 50 years old, are conceptually similar to today’s API and linked data. In fact SlashDB implements his concept, albeit using modern technology (SQL database for a backend and HTTP for transport protocol).

Bachman’s visionary database management system allowed files to be located and modified without the need for the programs to be rewritten when accessing files. IDS accomplished this feat by using a separate data dictionary which allowed users to track data and study relationships between data in different records. 2 For example data on clients and data on manufacturing orders could be easily compared and tracked. This was an innovative movement toward integrating varied types of data that allowed the computer to become a tool for managing information.

Interestingly enough, SlashDB is not the only one making use of Bachman’s ideas today. Database designers even now rely on graphical tools or data structure diagrams to illustrate the complex data structures they use.3 These diagrams are called Bachman diagrams as he was the first to use this method.

An example of a Bachman diagram.

An example of a Bachman diagram.

So after his amazing contribution to the field of computer science, why hasn’t a film about Bachman been made – a tale of the strikingly innovative computer geek in the tradition of The Social Network and the soon to be released Steve Jobs film? There’s no clear answer to this. We can only hope that Bachman has a sufficiently emotionally complicated backstory to warrant such a film – fingers crossed.

So let’s take a moment to examine the man behind this huge contribution to computer science.

Charles Bachman was an engineer rather than a computer scientist, although his greatest contribution is to computer science rather than engineering. Bachman’s exceptional contribution to database technology hasn’t gone completely unnoticed (despite the absence of a film chronicling his invention). In 1973 Bachman became the 8th recipient of the A.M. Turing Award 4– the highest honor in the field of computer science, and doubly appropriate as an homage to Turing himself (an undoubtedly influential computer scientist – who incidentally has three films, a documentary, a play, and a novel based on him) and for its closeness to the word turning, as recipients’ work represents a specific turning point in the field of computer science.

While a film on Bachman has not yet been made, he is far from being forgotten. In 2014 President Barack Obama awarded Bachman the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.5 Let’s hope that a movie is soon to follow this huge honor.

  1. Thomas Haigh, “Fifty Years of Databases,” ACM SIGMOD Blog, December 11, 2012.
  2. Thomas Haigh, “A.M. Turing Award Winners,” ACM, accessed September 17, 2015.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Thomas Haigh, “Fifty Years of Databases,” ACM SIGMOD Blog, December 11, 2012.
  5. “Charles W. Bachman,” Computer History Museum, accessed September 17, 2015.,Bachman/.
SlashDB API for Data Science vs. Tools Like Oracle BI

SlashDB API for Data Science vs. Tools Like Oracle BI

We are often asked how SlashDB compares to Oracle BI or other business intelligence software.

Well, the main difference is that SlashDB provides unobstructed access to data for reading and writing, while those tools can only display data already nicely formatted for end users.

In addition to that SlashDB works both internally and does not require you to send data to a third party storage to make it available on the Internet. Oracle BI generally only works on the inside, and cloud-based SaaS products generally require you to upload your data to their storage in a format that fits their systems.

SlashDB is an instant web API shell over traditional databases. Unlike data warehouses and ETL, it does not copy the data form their source systems so the data is always up to date. Oracle BI requires setting up complicated ETL processes, which only run periodically and create copies of data.

Transparency of Research Matters

SlashDB is an excellent gateway to data for downstream analytics systems and self-service reporting in Excel, R, Python and more.

Fragment of the Research DocumentOur friends at PyStreet have recently conducted a survey on Python developers salary. The response data resides in an MS SQL Server database, but they wanted to publish the results online. They also wanted to demonstrate Python’s capability in data analysis.

Using SlashDB they made the database publicly accessible for reading via HTTP.

Then using IPhython Notebook and pandas data analysis library they produced a fully transparent research document, which was later shared online.

The notebook can not only be viewed, but also downloaded and modified.

Both the raw data and their transformations can be scrutinized and/or modified. For example, certain data points were removed from the study, but one can change those criteria or skip that step entirely. BI tools typically do not offer that degree of transparency.

SlashDB is industry independent. At last, your data scientists and business analysts will be empowered to leverage investments made in database systems. Use it with sales records, marketing campaign data, financial data or any other key performance indicator data to derive insights that matter.

SlashDB Applauded at PyData Conference

SlashDB lightning talk at the PyData conference was received with a round of applause. Please contact us to discuss /db features in context of your work or to schedule a dedicated presentation.

“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)