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, your first clue should have been...

This IT pilot fish gets a call from a friend who complains that her computer has acquired a virus after getting an email from her Internet security provider -- warning her that her laptop has been stolen.

Urgent, redefined

Remote user submits a help-desk ticket over the weekend to get some software installed -- and it's flagged as urgent.

Anyone see a problem with this plan?

IT manager pilot fish is also a clinical psychologist, and he's worked out a way to piece together an electronic clinical records system for this large mental health center. Then his boss discovers the project.

Why we love last-millennium password policies

IT pilot fish goes to work at a large retailer's distribution center, where the policy is that passwords must be changed every 90 days -- which turns out to have unexpected consequences.

Can I get that in writing?

Growing company can't keep up with the need for help desk phone support staff, so the CTO institutes a new policy: All support requests must now come in by email. What could possible go wrong with that plan?

Experts, redefined

IT pilot fish is helping his aunt fix her PC because, well, that's where family members get their tech support, right? But this time, she suggests getting help -- from "the smart people."

Is that what they said about Y2k testing too?

New-to-the-company pilot fish's first assignment is to test a process that reboots a PC at midnight Saturday -- and after resetting the PC's clock, that's easy enough to do on Monday. But there's a hitch.

Otherwise it would have typed AHAHAHAHAHAAAA!

A receptionist -- with a reputation for being tech-challenged -- calls the help desk with a complaint: Her laptop is possessed and is typing out everything she's saying.

Great idea, boss!

This company is growing at a double-digit rate, and adding locations and employees at about the same clip, and the IT manager pilot fish has been pushing for a saner IT procurement process -- with no success.

Forgot your password? Good luck, chum

This retired pilot fish notices that nothing has shown up in his email in-box in almost 12 hours, which almost never happens. And when he tries his broadband provider's web mail access, he's got another problem.

And about those master and slave brake cylinders?

The owners of this family-owned vehicle rental business notice that its users are called "users." Wait, isn't that an illegal-drugs word?

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