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.

Right idea, wrong beep

User calls this support pilot fish, complaining that his UPS must need a new battery, because it keeps beeping at him from time to time. So why isn't fish finding anything wrong?

2 plus 2? 4 (or maybe 5 for large values of 2?)

Pilot fish moves into a subdivision that has a homeowners' association -- and when word gets around that he's a tech, his new neighbors have a request.

Cleanliness is actually next to sabotage, it seems

Trouble ticket comes in to the on-site tech pilot fish at this small regional university: Ever since the mid-semester break, students can't log in on some of the iMacs in a Biology computer lab.

Notepad, WordPad, iPad -- a pad's a pad, right?

Analyst calls this IT pilot fish with a service request: He needs some "programming" and an explanation of "how an email is made" -- and, though he doesn't know it, some help following directions.

IT Rule #17: Any computer is ALWAYS about to break

Pilot fish has to field this user's complaint after his laptop's hard drive dies. It seems he can't re-install the operating system because the serial number is illegible -- and the IT support staff isn't sufficiently helpful.

Because, hey, what could possibly go wrong?

IT employee at this local hospital needs some flash memory cards for her camera while she's on vacation, and decides to "borrow" the ones that are most conveniently available -- right out of a network switch.

Isn't that a job requirement for that position?

This former systems consultant knows the "I hate computers" syndrome among users very well indeed. And then there are the friends and relatives who ask for help...

See, somebody DOES read the manual!

This pilot fish is a student working on an IT team at a local government office, with an office management system to build -- and an evil sense of humor.

We don't want people calling the help desk, do we?

This pilot fish is responsible for administering SharePoint for a heavily used part of his company's intranet. So when it's down one morning he's a little concerned -- not knowing he's about to get a LOT concerned.

OK, fun's fun, but where's my BIOS?

Support center pilot fish is reviewing case notes from front line support techs when he comes across a complaint that's even more questionable than usual -- from a user who's sure he knows what he wants.

Can you see me now?

This company uses a microwave setup for links in its wide-area network, and that has worked fine -- or anyhow, it's worked fine until lately.

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