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.

And at 80, standing on your head won't work either

Pilot fish with a side business helping out home users with their IT problems gets a call from a panicked elderly customer: She's trying to set a new new background image and something has gone terribly wrong.

Not certified, but very possibly certifiable

A client of this consultant pilot fish complains that his token-ring Novell network has gotten really, really slow. How slow? A print job submitted on Monday would spit pages out over the next two or three days.

Highlighting, redefined

The company where this sysadmin works has a carefully crafted process for any application changes -- and some people want to make sure they're very specific about the details.

Well, that's one way to make IT a profit center

This electrical engineer pilot fish arrives at a power plant to check the systems, and discovers there's software that needs to be installed on a laptop. Fish has the software with him -- but there's a problem.

Probably someone too young to have ever used a fax

This business rewires its offices to put voice and data jacks at every spot that might conceivably need them -- but one one department's all-in-one fax/copier/scanner/printer just can't get incoming faxes now.

Why don't they just DESIGN those buttons that way?

It's long ago in a gentler age, and this bored computer-room operator has to watch the big printers churn out reports and change paper when they need it. What could possibly complicate that?

Success, redefined

In the early days of the Internet, this organization's traveling sales reps log on when they can and download days' worth of data. And then, with key people on vacation, it all suddenly stops working.

And all this was on speaker phone, naturally?

This networking pilot fish is at his desk working on the virtual server environment when he gets a call from the CIO -- who's in a meeting with a vendor and wants to know "what our LDAP server is."

You're, um, very very very very very very welcome

This pilot fish gets a message from the boss labeled HIGH IMPORTANCE, so he knows every word demands his attention -- right?

Maybe they wanted it locked to keep you in?

The marketing department is hosting a big customer party at this site, and warns sysadmin to make sure the computer room is secure. But at 3 p.m. on party day, everything suddenly goes dark.

But isn't a cloud just a storm waiting to happen?

Bigwig at this company decides that security has become a critical concern, so he pushes to prioritize all security initiatives throughout the company. But the cloud? That he's not so sure about.

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