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.


Remember, every demo's REAL audience is Murphy

Ticketmaster and Fandango are far in the future when this tech's boss asks him to develop a basic ticket-purchase system -- one that uses a minicomputer 1,600 miles away.

Let's call it 80 percent-ish?

Software developer has six months to create his part of an airport's automated people mover -- and when a senior architect offers to help out, it sounds like a win/win.

Sometimes, bad taste matters

Pilot fish's home internet and cable-TV line has to be repeatedly replaced because squirrels keep chewing through it -- until a more experienced repair guy arrives.

OK, there's SOMETHING we've left out here...

This server rack in a school is in a spot that's about to be turned into a non-IT office. But the building crew is asking IT how to wall it off, so what could go wrong?

Simple misunderstanding

Older programmer's new boss can't seem to hide the fact that she thinks he's incompetent due to his age. What will it take to show her he can write code she likes?

Of course, that's just an approximation...

College student in the 1970s works nights as a computer operator, and he gets to use the mainframe for his homework, too -- but its performance isn't all he's hoping for.

Is this what they call a learning experience?

This IT pilot fish's job involves installing a business software package at companies across the U.S. -- but it's about to take an unpleasant turn into training.

Professionalism, always professionalism

Several employees are moving to new desks, and fortunately this pilot fish gets a week's notice so he can set them up overnight. But guess who didn't get the memo?

Well, yes, that IS a question...

This IT project is falling behind, and a key bottleneck is some work that's been assigned to a contractor. What's holding things up?

Hey, it's a LONG way up to the 26th floor!

Pilot fish's challenge is connecting a terminal on the 26th floor to a control unit on the ground floor -- in a hotel with no network wiring, and a deadline days away.

You've just got to go through the proper channels

Where can a vendor support rep turn when someone's code is overwriting the software's transactions, but the customer's programmers insist they're not responsible?

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