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.


Turns out the correct button to click on was 'Send'

This pilot fish is certain he types in the right password for his online banking -- but the bank software denies access and locks the account. Good thing there are self-service ways to resolve this, right?

Not the kind of multitasking we're looking for

This federal agency pays new IT employees to sit around surfing the Internet until their security clearances come through. But for one recent hire, that's not enough.

How DO we keep prices so low? Oh, that's how...

Pilot fish is trying to order from an ecommerce site and hits a snag: A web form has a seriously incomplete picklist on an absolutely essential field. Time to call tech support, right?

Right on schedule

Flashback to the early 1990s, when this car-rental agency's handheld devices for checking in cars stop working every night at the same time -- but only for a few minutes. What's killing their wireless signal?

Your IT dollars at work...and play

This pilot fish and 11 of his co-workers are being taken out to dinner by a very big IT vendor -- and fish and his boss, who both know fine wines, get to select the drinks. How could this possibly go wrong?

Just this once, maybe proofreading IS a good idea

Pilot fish works on the IT help desk at a hospital run by a religious organization, but he helpfully proofreads the hospital's intranet, too. The biggest repeat offer when it comes to typos: Food Services.

Options: Carrot. Stick. Trust. Guess what works?

Consultant pilot fish is getting bored with his current project, but the client has a hot new project planned and would love fish on the team. Just one problem: He'll need training to learn the new technology.

How about Mute 101 for everyone?

This help desk tech is sure the user he's trying to help on the phone is clueless -- and he's probably right. But it turns out that user isn't alone.

Internationalization, REDEFINED!

This company develops embedded systems, and all the user-facing text is internationalized, but not the diagnostics. Then a new owner wants that to be translated too -- within the next two weeks.

Missed it by THAT much

It's just about Y2k time, and this pilot fish is assigned to a college's accounting department, where he has lots of duties that include one very taxing responsibility: uploading 1099 data every year to the IRS.

Why we love licensing

Flashback a decade or two, to the days when one big database vendor is constantly changing its licensing -- and customers keep figuring out how to beat it.

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