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: Shh! Don't tell!

In this company's IT department, they spell DBA G-O-D -- which wouldn't be such a problem if it didn't mean a new database-oriented application will run so S-L-O-W.

Top-level executive support, redefined

This multinational company needs a new call-center system for its US division -- but what it's got is a penny-pinching division president who wants to run the project.

Well, he was half-right -- it WAS plugged in...

Flashback to the late 1980s, when this IT pilot fish working for a large city's Board of Education gets a call about a green-screen terminal that has stopped working.

Overboard

IT pilot fish at a maritime support company gets a call from a field employee whose laptop has been running slowly for some reason -- but he thinks he's found a solution.

Success at last!

This pilot fish changes jobs, moving from a small software company to a large state college -- and there's a bit of culture shock when it comes to basic equipment.

Throwback Thursday: Why comments were invented

IT gets request to provide employee data for the company-wide address book -- no big deal. But two years later, bosses get cell phones and it's time to change the code...

Well, it's secure, all right...

Small IT consultancy gets a contract with a very big company -- one that makes security a top priority. On Day 1, everything is fine. But Day 2 is a different story.

Smarter than you thought

Newly hired systems analyst doesn't really grasp systems, but she does knows how to throw lots of jargon around at managers -- and how to finesse an impossible situation.

And thanks so much for your input, boss!

It's 1999, but this IT department's big crisis isn't Y2k -- it's the Melissa virus, and all the teams are gathered to devise a plan for cleaning up the infection.

Clean, redefined

IT support pilot fish gets an instant message from one of the company's front-line techs, who has a customer on the line -- wanting to know how to clean his flash drive.

Throwback Thursday: Well, that explains it

There's a major system outage at this company, and it needs to be escalated at once to Support Team A. But there's just one problem...and another, and another, and...

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