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.

This is why, now and then, we reinvent the wheel

Flashback to the 1980s, when this Cobol programmer has a new job -- and his first assignment is whipping up a new report for a major application. What he doesn't know is hoe he's expected to do it.

Technically, you CAN do that, but...

This school district gets its PCs from a local computer company that does a perfectly reasonable job of building them -- but the keyboards are a problem.

So THAT'S why they think it's "their" printer

It's more than a few years ago, this pilot fish is the first network administrator at a small private college, and his users were just getting used to the idea of network-attached printers.

Are you REALLY happier knowing why?

Sysadmin pilot fish gets a request from a department manager to restore a file directory. It's marked "high priority" -- and it says all but one of the files have gone missing. What's going on here?

Sometimes a demo works just like it's supposed to

It's a few decades back, and this pilot fish works as an installer for a minicomputer vendor -- with one customer who's just very unclear on a key computer-room concept.

Whatever works

This company's phone system keeps having intermittent issues, but when IT calls the phone company's support line, the techs there insist no one else is complaining and there's nothing they can do.

Yeah, we've had years that felt like that too

Consultant pilot fish has written a relatively simple program for this accounting system to roll up costs by months and years. So why is it taking so long to run -- and generating so many journal entries?

Budget cuts? Welcome to the club

Budgets have been tightened at the site where this IT pilot fish works, and the effects are visible in almost every direction. So why is management suddenly interested in sponsoring employee clubs?

Good thing this could never happen today, huh?

It's the 1980s, and a couple guys from this public gas utility's IT shop drop by the Engineering department to get the serial number of what they're sure is the only mainframe terminal in the building -- right?


Desktop support pilot fish at a healthcare research facility finds a phishing email in his inbox one day -- or at least that's what it sort of looks like.

Your new IT TLA is ATM: Always Talk to Maintenance

This pilot fish works in maintenance at a major airport, and he gets word that the networking group will be installing a new link from one end of a runway to the other in order. But they know what they're doing, right?

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