Sharky

Questions that Sharky gets a lot

Q: What's a pilot fish?

A: There are two answers to that question. One is the Mother Nature version: Pilot fish are small fish that swim just ahead of sharks. When the shark changes direction, so do the pilot fish. When you watch underwater video of it, it looks like the idea to change direction occurred simultaneously to shark and pilot fish.

Thing is, sharks go pretty much anywhere they want, eating pretty much whatever they want. They lunge and tear and snatch, but in so doing, leave plenty of smorgasbord for the nimble pilot fish.

The IT version: A pilot fish is someone who swims with the sharks of enterprise IT -- and lives to tell the tale. Just like in nature, a moment's inattention could end the pilot fish's career. That's life at the reef.

Q: Are all the Sharky stories true?

A: Yes, as best we can determine.

Q: Where do the Sharky tales come from?

A: From readers. Sharky just reads and rewrites and basks in the reflected glory of you, our readers. It is as that famous fish-friendly philosopher Spinoza said, "He that can carp in the most eloquent or acute manner at the weakness of the human mind is held by his fellows as almost divine."

Q: How do I get one of those fabulous Sharky T-shirts?

A: Here's how it works. You send us your tale of perfidy, heroism or just plain weirdness at your IT shop. If Sharky selects it for publication, you get the shirt -- free and clear, no handling charges.

Q: Do I have to write my story in Sharky-ese?

A: No. Not at all. Just be sure to give us details. What happened, to whom, what he said, what she said, how it all worked out.

Q: I've got a really funny story, but I could get fired if my old trout of a boss found out I told you. How confidential is what I send to Sharky?

A: We don't publish names: yours, your boss's, your trout's, your company's. We try to file off the serial numbers, though there's no absolute guarantee that someone who lived through the incident won't recognize himself. Our aim is to share the outrageous, knee-slapping, milk-squirting-out-your-nose funny tales that abound in the IT world, not to get you fired. That would not be funny.

Q: You published my tale. Where's my T-shirt?

A: Hey, hey, cut us a break. You sent your tale over the Internet. If we could send your Shark shirt that way, you can bet we would.

Because most Shark Tank submissions don't include a full mailing address, we have to contact each pilot fish to get the address before sending out a T-shirt. That's done in batch mode, so it can take anywhere from a day to a few weeks. When things really get backed up, it can fall behind as much as a month or more.

But be assured: Sharky vows to forget no one!

Occasionally by the time your tale sees print, your e-mail address will have changed. If your e-mail address changed after you sent your contribution and you never got your shirt, let us know at sharky@computerworld.com. We'll get right on it.

Q: How do I get each new Shark Tank tale emailed to me?

Easy. Subscribe to the newsletter.

Q: Where are the Sharkives?

Tales of old can be found in Sharky's archive.


OK, glowing pink ooze would worry us, too

Flashback to the 1980s, when this Australian organization finally eases into computerization -- and is trying to do it right, ergonomically speaking....

Just like it says on the screen

This company has rolled out thin clients for its users, and mostly that's worked fine -- but for one power user it's a problem....

Lightning? That's the least of their problems

This consultant pilot fish is called in by a new client -- a banquet hall -- to clean up wireless network problems after a lighting storm. But what he finds is a much bigger mess....

But it looks so nice now!

It's summer, the time of year at this large wholesale plant nursery when business is slow and supervisors decide to spiff up their work areas, reports an IT pilot fish there. "Shortly after this particular office's re-do, we...

You can see this coming. Why couldn't they?

Flashback to 1972, when this pilot fish and his cohorts are working many late nights in the computer room as they prepare a new version of their 16K operating system for a government project. "The main means of storing the...

Why we love customers (and sales VPs, too)

It's the late 1980s, and this pilot fish has a project to install some new servers for a rapidly expanding bank. "Because the bank bought these servers with financing through my employer, it was also my job to get the customer to...

Alternate workaround: Turn up the heat

It's the depths of a particularly frigid midwestern winter when this executive approaches an IT support tech complaining that there's something wrong with her smartphone, reports a pilot fish on the scene. "This was not a...

We DO trust users -- that's why we have failsafes

This company decides to give its board members iPads so they can receive and review reports and requests prior to each monthly meeting, says a pilot fish who's part of the project. "The information emailed to each board member...

A double negative really ain't no positive thing

This pilot fish has a batch of Windows 7 laptops to configure -- and it's been decided that the sales people getting them should be required to use Ctrl-Alt-Del to log onto their laptops. "After much searching, I discover where to...

See, there's a solution after all

This A/V-tech pilot fish at a big midwestern university doesn't normally handle printer issues -- that's IT's bailiwick. But for some reason he gets sent out anyway when a user's complaint is "The printer isn't doing duplex." "I...

Back to school already?

This school district issues iPads to its teachers for classroom use -- and they're allowed to take them home over the summer break, according to a pilot fish in the loop. "Three weeks before school starts, I got a frantic call...

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