It's the long-ago days of the 20th century, and this pilot fish is working as a developer for a small software vendor.
"Standard procedure required me to write documentation detailing the changes and bug fixes every time I released a new version of our product," fish says.
"Our company's two customer service representatives were then supposed to read this documentation, redact those parts which were for internal company use only, translate the remainder from geek-speak into user-speak and send the edited document out to our customers to serve as that version's data sheet.
"I should mention that the purpose of having them revise the document for public consumption wasn't just to provide addendums to the user manuals -- it was also to make sure they kept abreast of our product's current status."
But fish knows very well that neither of the reps ever bothers to glance at the documentation -- they just send it straight out to customers, unedited and unread.
Fish mentions the problem to his boss, who's also the the company's CEO and owner. But the boss assures fish that the reps are following procedure and reading every word that fish sends them.
So fish tries a little test. First he pins a five-dollar bill to the cork board in his office. Then he writes a closing paragraph that he attaches to every piece of documentation that he sends out:
"To my co-workers: You will notice I have a five-dollar bill pinned to my cork board. It is a reward for reading these release notes. If you read this, the money is yours! Please take it; you've earned it. To our customers: I know you read the release notes. Please don't tip off my co-workers. I want to see how long the reward goes unclaimed."
Reports fish, "Both customer service reps noticed the money on the cork board and asked what it was for. I just smiled and said, 'It's a secret.' From time to time one of our customers would ask if the prize had been claimed yet. The answer was always no.
"Four years later, when I left the company, I unpinned the money and took it with me."
Sharky's success depends on reading your story. So send me your true tale of IT life at firstname.lastname@example.org. You'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.
Get your daily dose of out-takes from the IT Theater of the Absurd delivered directly to your Inbox. Subscribe now to the Daily Shark Newsletter.