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.


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.

Really, just a Post-It note would have worked fine

After an employee at a remote office is let go because of poor productivity, his laptop is shipped back to this IT tech -- who finds a piece of masking tape over the built-in webcam. And under the tape?

Cross-examination can work ON lawyers, too

Support pilot fish gets a visit from his company's biggest and brightest hot-shot lawyer, whose laptop isn't working -- and he's willing to wait while fish fixes it.

Not exactly Law & Order: IT Victims Unit

Flashback to 1994, when laptops cost $3,000 and are hard to come by at the company where this pilot fish works -- a situation that doesn't improve when the lone loaner laptop goes missing.

Sometimes it just takes a little leverage

This pilot fish is providing support for a big hardware manufacturer's motherboards, and he gets a call from a customer who just can't get the PCs he builds to boot reliably.

Too bad he didn't try to call the help desk first

It's the beginning of the school year, and it's more than usually chaotic for this pilot fish who's hobbling around after foot surgery. But one teacher can't log in -- and he insists that his cables are plugged in.

Sadly, we're pretty sure she HAS done this before

This IT pilot fish gets a new user set up with email, then asks if she needs help learning how to use it. Her response: 'Oh no, I've done this before.'

Sometimes you really need an engineered solution

This software for monitoring production lines is standardized throughout the company. But one manager wants to install a monitor that will make it impossible to use without a complete redesign.

There's sharing, and then there's OVER-sharing...

This Head Start program shares space with a school district, and the two organizations have different Wi-Fi networks and web filtering rules. But someone is sharing Head Start's Wi-Fi passphrase with school users.

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