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.


Throwback Thursday: Get the picture?

This newspaper's IT director is reworking the company's entire network. Why? There's no security -- and a critical outage has just shown management that's a real problem.

Why do we even bother paying these IT guys, anyway?

Tech-for-hire is sent to a local tax preparer's office, where he gets a to-do list and strict instructions not to do ANYTHING that will keep the employees from working.

Think of it as meeting the needs of the company

Flashback almost three decades to when this systems analyst is hired and immediately gets an unpleasant surprise: There are so many meetings he's ready to quit.

Wait, how can you be unclear on the concept of HEAT?

This company's newly installed WAN network equipment has a big problem: It's overheating in a big way. But the reason turns out to be not such a big mystery after all.

Failure, redefined

Programmer is hired because he can use C and scripting languages to pull info from databases and generate web pages. But his job turns out to be a lot more complicated.

Throwback Thursday: Well, no, not exactly

Pilot fish is setting up a new router to let a branch office connect to HQ's VoIP. The final step: Have a user at the other end restart the remote router. Easy, right?

Not so fast!

Computer science professor gets a call from a former student who's stumped by a database problem, and it's one that should be pretty easy to solve -- shouldn't it?

Good thing they didn't do any programming, huh?

This IT pilot fish is part of a team working under a contract where there's a very specific stipulation: These contractors absolutely, positively can't write code.

Rigged demo, defined

This hospital's IT department lets employees shadow people in other groups to see how the whole department operates -- or at least that's how it's supposed to work.

For sale: New PCs, never used

It's some years back, and this pilot fish is working on a project at a bank branch out in the sticks when a local woman asks him for help selling her brand-new PCs.

Throwback Thursday: Breakfast Of Champions

This small retail chain depends on six servers on a single UPS that can run the entire computer room for 20 minutes -- and it's fine until a zap, a sizzle and an outage.

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