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 what if we have another hardware problem?

Data center pilot fish gets a call at home on the weekend: The mainframe is flashing errors and can't be restarted. Sure, fish says, I'll come in -- which turns out to be the wrong answer in just about every way.

Really, it's a great solution, but...

This big minicomputer computer keeps getting errors writing to the disk drives it manufactures, and none of the engineers can figure out why. But when a new engineer tries his hand at it, he comes up with a fix.

My version! No, MY version!

This growing biotech company ends up with a merged sales operation that includes two groups of salesmen, each with its own customer data supplier -- and both on one big customer database.

And no, you don't get to keep the CRT either

In the late 1990s, this organization is on a six-year refresh cycle for monitors, with the next wave is set to be flat-panel displays, And for one engineer, that can't come soon enough.

And it was an, um, privilege knowing him, right?

This pilot fish at a shipping and logistics company finds himself on a project to port some of the company's software to Unix -- just before the Thanksgiving holiday.

But we're betting you DID label that line, right?

It's back in the days before this sheriff's department went to VoIP, and a pilot fish there has a nifty device for the times when he needs to figure out exactly what line a phone is connected to.

I think we've located the problem, all right

This pilot fish's custom applications have been tweaked to perfection for a global manufacturer over the past decade. So why is the new facility in India starting to have problems?

Good thing you missed that the first time around

Pilot fish working for a county's emergency services gets a trouble ticket from a deputy whose laptop is having sound problems -- and fish pretty quickly finds a virus.

Who says users never read directions?

A new voicemail system has been set up for this company, a broadcast message about changing temporary password has been sent out, and all that's needed now is the final cutover.

This must be her lucky day

Freshly graduated pilot fish is hired by a big utility's IT department, and early on her supervisor decides to introduce her to the joys of late-night systems maintenance.

But...but it's technology!

In the early days of desktop computers, this pilot fish works for a company that sells the Apple II Plus -- and he wants to show his mom what it can do.

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