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.


So you think anyone will want this 'timesharing' stuff?

Flashback to the days when the mainframe is king and timesharing is a huge boon for programmers -- who get more than a little jealous when they can't get access to it.

And that was actually the CLEAN version!

This oilfield services company's new email filter flags language that's not considered business appropriate -- but it turns out that depends on what business you're in.

Forbidden names, revisited

Flashback to the glory days of CompuServe, when anyone could get an account, but not everyone could use their real names -- even if there wasn't a naughty word involved.

But hey, she sure interviewed well!

Contract programmer comes recommended by her employer and, after a brief technical interview by non-programmers, she's hired. How could that approach possibly go wrong?

Throwback Thursday: Bin there, done that

It's a few years before eBay, and this IT shop is upgrading one of its oldest machines with external tape drives -- and some obsolete but expensive interface cards.

Just like clockwork

Flashback to the days when this programmer pilot fish is working on system software for large computers -- and one of the thorniest problems is knowing what time it is.

The name that must not be, um, Skyped?

This pilot fish needs to install Skype on her home computer, but she's having trouble getting it set up -- it seems Microsoft really doesn't approve of her name.

Why we love recommendations

First-time IT manager hires a new member for his team, but he doesn't work out well -- and in light of his glowing recommendations, the manager can't figure out why.

Assist, redefined

Applications programmer accepts a job in system software at an outfit that supports insurance companies, but he won't be writing applications -- or so he's told.

Throwback Thursday: Present company excepted

One of IT's jobs in this city government is to be the first-level gatekeepers of ergonomic policy -- though not everybody seems to believe that applies to them.

That bus rolls both ways

This new IT boss calls an all-hands meeting so she can get to know her widely dispersed staff -- and they get an early look at her critical decision-making skills.

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