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.


Well, the modem WAS connected to SOMETHING

It's the days of whine and modems, and this pilot fish has just started working as an IT support tech at a private school when one day he gets a call from a teacher who needs help connecting from home.

Why we love doing tech support for 'friends'

IT pilot fish comes in to work one day to find a co-worker who's brought in a PC from home -- with an invitation to see "the world's worst memory upgrade."

If I only had a brain... er, executive assistant

In the organization where this IT support pilot fish works, trouble tickets from Very Important Persons are automatically escalated -- though that does mean their less-than-stellar IT moments attract more attention.

Hey, it HAS a C: prompt, so what's the problem?

It's the dawn of PC history, and this still-in-school pilot fish has a job working on the department's machines, including an early Tandy computer -- Radio Shack's first crack at a PC compatible. But is it?

Because NOBODY can see through cardboard, right?

It's the mid-1980s and, in this close-knit mainframe IT shop, the dozen techies have a regular game they play: Spot the Bonuses.

Heck, if you do it that way, ANYTHING would work!

Big network hardware company has a donation program for schools, and this pilot fish follows up with each school to see how things are going. But this particular school is not happy at all.

It's one thing you just can't have too many of

Flashback to the early 1980s, when this project manager pilot fish is working to help bring an aging factory into the computer age -- and he's not getting any help from a programmer who wants fish's PC.

Think of it as 'bonding through shared pain'

This pilot fish is getting a start in IT as a student worker, but fish is also the one who's training the boss -- who uses some carefully chosen hardware to improve the learning experience.

Busy work, meet the buddy system

This IT consulting outfit doesn't just expect its unassigned consultants to show up for regular working hours -- their fingers had better be moving too.

Untroductuon to UT, 1970s-style

Flashback to the earliest days of desktop computing, when the high school where this pilot fish is a student gets its first-ever computer -- and an object lesson in attention to detail.

What's in a name?

IT pilot fish at this consulting outfit gets a new boss, who has a new name for consultants who aren't currently on projects -- and a new way to "improve" their morale.

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