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.

Was that the stupid thing I wasn't supposed to do?

It's circa 2001, and this pilot fish is at a site installing some control-room workstations that are intentionally isolated from the Internet -- and he realizes he's missing a driver. Fortunately, he knows where to find it.

And that's why we do user acceptance testing

This state agency's IT people are in the process of developing a replacement for a major infrastructure application -- and there are interfaces to two outside systems that are very, very similar.

Now don't you wish YOU had that option sometimes?

User calls the help desk to report a problem with her desktop computer, but the local support people are away -- so though this pilot fish is in another city, he decides to help out.

But it's so tasteful!

The 40 members of this IT group move into a new office space, and for the most part it's fine -- except for one small problem.

And it only took 30 years

Flashback to the early 1980s, when this pilot fish is working for a big consulting firm -- and one of the senior salesmen is just too big a target to pass up on April Fool's Day.

How not to make money in IT, RFID edition

This IT pilot fish is working for an e-commerce startup on the ERP team, and trying to avoid problems for a vendor bidding on a project to use RF scanners throughout a warehouse. Guess who's not listening?

So THAT'S how it could happen!

Unix sysadmin pilot fish discovers one day that a log file has suddenly changed to binary -- and that shouldn't happen. But when he asks for help, a more senior sysadmin just tells him, "That's impossible."

It's all in how you read it

This manufacturing company has an trouble-ticket system for IT hardware issues -- but it doesn't always communicate quite the information that help-desk people need.

That's not the hat I was wearing when you asked

This pilot fish is the go-to guy for antivirus issues at his company, and he's painfully aware that there are a few gaps in the protection -- and one very special gap in particular.

Kids, do NOT try this at home (OR in the office)

Sysadmin who has access to all parts of this office's IT systems decides to play an April Fool's joke on a salesman -- one that's, well, a little too good.

See, it really works!

IT consultant gets an assignment at corporate HQ for an appliance manufacturer, and one of his first tasks is doing some work on an order entry system. Then he needs to test it.

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