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 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.

But then they could reuse the business cards!

After a lot of staff turnover, this organization gets a much-needed addition to its sysadmin ranks -- but something still seems not quite right.

Good copy? Bad copy? No 'copy'

It's decades ago, and this banking company figures out how to get local branches to help out with check processing system. There's just one small, well-hidden problem waiting to rear its ugly head.

Well, it was funny while it lasted

User from HR emails this support ticket to the help desk, a pilot fish on the scene reports: "When I printer my documents nothing comes out."

Have you considered someone with handcuffs?

This pilot fish is doing some side work providing IT support for a small heating and air conditioning business when he gets a call from the owner -- whose laptop's version of Excel has started going crazy.

So THAT'S the kind of security users want from IT!

At this manufacturing company, IT is responsible for a wider range of areas than most -- and sometimes the user requests get a little bit on the wild side.

Gee, why IS it so hard to find IT people nowadays?

This project manager pilot fish has been working freelance, but when a regular, full-time PM position opens up at a well-established manufacturer, she decides to apply -- and it looks like a done deal.

Because that's the way we do it, that's why

Decades ago, this bank had problems because users were writing on floppy disks using ballpoint pens. That problem was solved -- but look what they're doing today.

There ARE worse ways to hear from the FBI at 1 AM

It's 1 a.m., and this user is asleep at home when she's awakened by her frantic teenage son at her bedroom door -- and it's about the FBI.

OK, try this one: Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?

IT support pilot fish for this healthcare organization gets a call from a user who can't get into her email -- and fortunately that problem can be resolved with the answer to a single question.

Timing is everything

Support engineer at a healthcare IT vendor gets a customer report that an interface between two systems isn't working properly after a change was made. Fortunately, there's a clue in the error data.

Yeah, that's some sort of error, all right

This IT pilot fish working for a school district is notified by a staff member that she can't log on and is getting "some sort of error message." But when fish looks into the problem, it just keeps getting weirder.

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