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.


Not the disaster recovery we were expecting

IT pilot fish working for a city government keeps getting complaints from people in the Public Works department that something's seriously wrong with their documents: None of their saves seems to stick.

Now aren't you glad you said yes?

Software developer pilot fish gets a call from his dad: A big family reunion is coming up, and everyone will be there. Can you make it? Sure, fish says -- I can use the break. But not everyone at work likes that idea.

Details, details...

Backup administrator pilot fish who works at a big insurance company gets a request to recover some missing files -- which is what a backup admin does, right? Well, maybe.

Successful, redefined

This IT pilot fish works in change management at a big organization -- one with a big contractor problem, on a software upgrade that should have taken a couple months but stretched out to almost a year.

The price of security is eternal phone calls

This city government is going through an extended validation process with one of its IT security providers -- which would be easier if they'd just use the right phone number.

Anything else we can fail to help you with today?

Company CEO needs a new all-in-one printer for his home office, and this consultant pilot fish gets the assignment. That should be simple enough, right?

Just our way of saying thanks for the hard work!

IT tech provides support for this university's music recitals and other events, and when there's a shot at some extra work (and pay) he jumps at it. But he hasn't reckoned with the bureaucratic mindset.

All right, NOW can we replace the hardware?

This IT support pilot fish has been sent to customer sites countless times by outsourced support people who just don't want to replace the hardware. This time, though, they may have run out of alternatives.

But thanks for getting back to me. Yeah. Really...

IT pilot fish gets copied on an email chain from a sales person: Have these products passed quality control, and can they be sold? Hmm, fish thinks, maybe our inventory system has a problem. Or maybe not...

Hey, those variables don't grow on trees, y'know!

This IT shop's boss wants a new column added to a key database -- one that will hold the file-creation date for every set of customer data. Consultant's response: That's going to be a very, VERY big job.

10,000 points of failure, but only one is the user

Late one night, this IT pilot fish gets locked out of online access to his credit card account -- for the second time in three months. But this time, at least he gets an explanation.

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