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.

With a name like that, what else could it be?

Flashback to the late 1980s, when this tech-vendor employee isn't afraid to have a little fun at parties -- especially with people who don't recognize the name of his company.

Or anyhow, esprit de something

IT pilot fish joins a carpool to cut his commuting costs, but riding in a nine-seater van turns out to be a good way to get to know his co-workers too.

Human error, redefined

This company uses an ERP system for OKing orders befor they go to the production line, and it uses a PC-based interface. But one manager likes doing it on his phone -- and that's a bit more error-prone.

Hey, remember me? Because I sure remember you

This IT pilot fish is working as a contractor at a client site where he has far too much opportunity to observe one particular IT manager -- and the way she manages isn't pretty.

Can you hear me now? OK then, HOW ABOUT NOW?!?

This company is upgrading its data warehouse from version 0.9 to version 2.0, and one pilot fish knows that has some subtle pitfalls for certain applications. But who's listening?

And then they had to ruin their imperfect record

This programmer pilot fish develops and maintains a custom manufacturing system for a client, and one report in particular has been working without a hitch for years -- until today.

But...but where are your PRIORITIES?!?

When it's time to review this IT shop's disaster recovery plans, the topic of staffing comes up -- along with a question that somehow has never crossed management's mind.

Well, it USED to work just fine!

This project Is replacing 30-year-old computer control equipment on a plant floor, and something's not right with one of the inputs. But is the problem in the hardware or software?

Hey, how hard could training be?

Flashback to the 1980s, when this big electronics chain has discovered there's big money to be made in everything that has to do with PCs -- including user training.

See, IT project governance works!

This manufacturer generates lots of production data that's used by its engineers at HQ. But local line supervisors also want to query the data to help make production more efficient. How hard could that be?

For once, WE aren't the last ones to find out

IT boss gets an email from the head of another department, asking for some user permissions to be adjusted -- but it's not exactly routine.

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