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.

Sort of like Where's Waldo, except he's everywhere

Help-desk pilot fish at this fast-growing company has built a fresh disk-image file for a new PC in case he needs to do a restore. Hey, another PC tech asks, can I have a copy of the image for setting up new PCs?

Looks like he's identified what's not working

The organization where this pilot fish works is implementing a new service, and it'll be thoroughly tested by headquarters IT before it's rolled out. So what's not working?

Attention to detail: It's how borders stay secure

This pilot fish's company has sold a system for checking passports at an international airport. But one day fish gets a phone call from the border police: "The server doesn't work."

An idle mind is the devil's Photoshop

Pilot fish is hired by this company to develop a simple database system to track clients and match them with doctors. It's quickly finished, and all that's left is to finish the training manual -- complete with cover.

Mail dysfunction

This warehouse advertises to hire a new PC Technical Specialist, but after a week, boss tells this pilot fish that no resumes have come in. Is there something in the ad that's keeping people from applying?


Net admin pilot fish is a contractor in a large federal agency, and with several sites to keep track of, he needs the right tool for the job. But Information Security has a different idea.

See, they CAN figure it out...eventually

These two users sit next to each other all day in this manufacturer's shipping department. And when one of them gets an error message, where does he turn?

Details, details

Head of this research group at a large non-profit medical center returns from a trip, and complains that her laptop won't turn on.

Got a minute?

Developer pilot fish helps build an in-house application to simplify and automate tasks for the Tier 1 support techs, so even new recruits can get up to speed fast. But there's one feature the boss doesn't care for.

One technology down, just 30 years' worth to go

IT consultant's father has agreed to help his son with a new business -- and though he worked as a computer field engineer until the early 1980s, he hasn't quite kept pace with the IT industry since then.

Now that you mention it, there IS one more thing...

Help desk pilot fish gets a call from a remote office: Users are having problems getting access to the local server -- and the office manager says no, she can't tell whether the server's power is on.

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