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.

Just put yourself in the user's place -- literally

Soon after the customer service staff moves to a new office, one rep calls IT to complain that her PC is making an unbearable, high-pitched noise. But why can't this pilot fish hear it?

Who needs those itty bitty fields, anyhow?

This project involves statistical analysis of some massive government-collected data files -- so big that kicking unneeded fields out of the working database is a priority. So what are the best fields to get rid of?

Think of it as getting laid off in slow motion

It's not long after Y2k, and the big company where this IT pilot fish works has just been swallowed by an even larger competitor. How long will it take for the developers to be on the street?

It's the stupid economy -- er, the economy, stupid

It's not that long ago, the economy is in lousy shape, and this pilot fish has landed a job with a small IT vendor back in his hometown -- but one with some peculiar practices.

'Important government projects,' redefined

User working for a public agency reports that his PC is having some odd problems, and when this IT pilot fish gets the job of fixing it, it doesn't take long for him to spot the problem.

You DID want to get rid of that loud beep, right?

This company plans to use handheld barcode scanners to read water meters, and the development unit has impressive specs, an even more impressive price -- and a loud, annoying beep.

Not the kind of prevention we had in mind, but...

This data center is protected by a Halon fire-suppression system that's set off by smoke and heat sensors -- or by a big red button on the wall, What could go wrong with that?

We're from Corporate IT and we're here to help

There's a reason this special business unit doesn't have much to do with its parent corporattion's central IT department -- and it's about to get a reminder of what that reason is.

Forget PCs -- let's have more of these kits!

It's the early 1990s, and this regional retail chain's IT staff is beginning to consider how PCs could be used in the stores. But the boss's reaction is 'Over my dead body!'

Time to add a new step to 'the usual process'?

User loses his company phone between the seats of his car, and when he fishes it out, he can't unlock it -- and why isn't the IT help desk solving this problem?

Why we love users, hard hat edition

Consultant pilot fish gets a gig working on the servers at this steel mill and, as usual, the job doesn't end with what the job description says -- but neither do the benefits.

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