Sharky

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 sharky@computerworld.com. 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.


The Big Lie, IT contracting edition

It's early in this programmer's IT contracting career and he's hired for a fairly short gig, but the consulting company says not to worry -- it'll take care of him.

Time for a wake-up call...

This help-desk call is very ordinary -- along the lines of "please reset my password" -- right up to the point where the user describes how helpful she is about updates.

IT: It's not just a job, it's an epidemic

Student walks into a university's IT support area, asking for help fixing her laptop's keyboard after something was spilled in it -- but she's cagey about what that was.

Success!

At this Detroit automaker in the 1970s, almost half the cars come off the assembly lines with steering column electrical problems -- but management has a high-tech fix.

Throwback Thursday: Something in the air

User in the chemical treatment area of an electronics factory has a four-month-old PC that isn't working -- and it takes no time for this IT pilot fish to figure out why.

Why we love REAL power users

It's the 1990s, and this IT support tech is tasked with installing a new laser printer for an engineer -- but he's not ready for what he sees when the office door opens.

Hey, are you getting paid to talk or to work?

This pilot fish has worked as an IT staffer and as a consultant, and he knows there can be some real disadvantages to the better-paid but less stable contracting life.

Some things are better left unexplained

Large organization has a server-based application that sometimes just stops -- and soon it's happening on a daily basis. But the vendor says nobody else has the problem.

No Parking Zone

City hires an IT contractor for the help desk for a few months, and it soon becomes clear that, when it comes to temp workers, HR and IT have very different priorities.

Throwback Thursday: Old PCs never die -- we hope

Pilot fish at this big distribution center is called in to investigate a PC in the shipping area that -- according to the trouble ticket -- is "making a loud noise."

How to win friends and influence software schedules

Regional building-supplies chain wants a major software enhancement from its turnkey business systems vendor, but the project just doesn't seem to be moving along.

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