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.


Sometimes, simplest is best

Help desk gets a call from the head of HR, who's trying very hard to print a document on the color Xerox copier -- but it's been imported into Word, and it's become really messed up.

It's not everything -- it's the only thing

Sysadmin pilot fish returns after being away from the office for a while to find a request: Restore everything that was deleted in a folder on the network. But where has it all gone to?

We bet the second user wasn't NEARLY so helpful

This office has two users who both want to be able to use three monitors at their desks. But after ordering and setting up everything needed, this pilot fish can't get that third monitor working for the first user.

This is why divinity students don't take CompSci

It's the early 1980s, and students at this university computer center are having fun with mainframe Job Control Language commands -- including an ongoing attempt to LOCATE GOD.

And by the way, welcome back!

This IT pilot fish is freshly back from his honeymoon when the customer service team leader stops in and asks him to order some sample kits using a script fish has developed. No problem, right?

Unclear on the concept, but she WAS thinking ahead

Flashback to the late 1990s, when this company is finally making the move to PCs -- and a panicky user who has to borrow a monitor to run payroll isn't clear on how this stuff works.

See, that whole Agile approach really does work!

Help desk pilot fish gets a call from a user whose support calls are guaranteed to be frustrating. Worse still: Before fish can help, he needs information that will require this user to type in a single command.

Quick and easy, redefined

Head of the Finance department returns from an ERP vendor's convention and sends a message to IT -- "Could someone come by for a quick and easy request?" -- and, naturally, it's anything but.

On the other hand, it survived Y2k just fine

This big retailer wants to make sure it doesn't feed duplicate orders into a mainframe system, so it tasks a programmer with making sure that doesn't happen. Flash forward 22 years. What could still go wrong?

Disaster. Recovery. Just like the name says...

It's time for this insurance company's big annual disaster recovery test, and because this pilot fish has some configuration changes to make, he heads to the colocation data center a few days early. Think that'll help?

Unclear on the Y2k concept, but taking no chances

Flashback to 1999, when this IT pilot fish is in the Air Force working as a medical technician, and everything -- that's EVERYTHING -- has to be Y2k-compliant.

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