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.


And that's why we troubleshoot first

IT support pilot fish who works for a public library system gets a work order from one of the branches: A PC that's available for public use is beeping. Fish's first step: Ask the obvious troubleshooting questions.

Why we love HR (special job-offer edition)

It's job-hunting time for this IT pilot fish, and his first two interviews both look like they'll turn into job offers. But when one company calls back, it's not quite what fish is expecting.

OK then, MOSTLY fine

Flashback to January 1999, when this IT pilot fish is hired by a small software company with a very specific customer base -- and no formal Y2k testing. But the owner assures fish, "It's fine."

Priorities

Programmer works up a file-transfer approach that meets some finicky requirements, and the result works so well that the engineering manager gives him a cash award. But guess who's not impressed?

So he's NOT your favorite memory of that job?

This IT pilot fish's seat is just on the other side of a cubicle partition from a co-worker who's really annoying -- and not just to fish.

Look, just think of it as unused vacation, OK?

It's the very late 20th century, and this pilot fish is called on to write the system specs for a new time clock system. Turns out the big problem isn't Y2k -- it's a 10-minute work break.

See, now it's TWICE as cost effective as before!

This healthcare IT vendor is rolling out a new instant messaging application for internal use, and that's a bigger deal than it might sound -- so getting it right matters a lot.

Unplug, plug back in. How exciting could THAT be?

Flashback to the early 1980s, when this New Zealand site has 100 terminals connected to the central computer in a very stylish office that's a disaster waiting to happen.

Pulp...er, help fiction

Documentation pilot fish joins the development team for this new CAD product -- where he gets no notes from project leads, no design specs and no emails from developers. And then there's QA...

So it must not be important, right?

Office manager pilot fish gets a call from an employee complaining that her internet connection is dead -- and fish has some idea what might be going on.

NOW we can help you!

Software developer's home DSL connection is having issues, so he checks it with a packet analyzer -- and it's a mess of problems. The obvious next step: Call the telco's tech support line with his findings, right?

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