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.


Speed kills

It's the 1980s, and this IT pilot fish figures out a neat hack to speed up a data entry job for his company's minicomputer -- but there's just one small problem with it.

One small step forward, one giant leap back

Pilot fish is paying his monthly bills online when he discovers one of his utilities has changed the payment part of its website -- and it's so secure, he can't log in.

Throwback Thursday: Just one more thing to worry about

Pilot fish and his wife are planning a vacation to an all-inclusive resort, which wants him to set up a password for its website -- but something's not quite right.

Why we (don't always) love the squeaky wheel

IT contractor pilot fish's project at a big company is winding down, so the company cuts him loose -- but also offers him a job doing the same thing he was doing before.

There are great interns, and OK interns, and then...

IT shop hires a summer intern who comes from a decent university and interviews well enough, but when he gets his first relatively simple assignment, it doesn't go well.

Why security is the first thing to go, episode 65,723

IT contractor's project to upgrade some software for a client is way behind schedule. Why is that such a problem? The current software is about to go End-of-Life.

Another satisfied IT customer!

Pilot fish is installing a system for a bank, and some days his liaison, the department manager, is open and helpful -- while other days, not at all. Why could that be?

Throwback Thursday: Well, trial and error IS a mechanism

New regulations mean more security at this insurance company, so it's goodbye keys, hello keycards. And if the system fails? Says the new CSO, "Mechanisms are in place."

Well, you asked for it!

This client sends data updates by fax, with type so small it's almost impossible to read. Data entry guy's plea: Could you please send the next update in a larger format?

Faster and easier? That's not in the contract

Hardware tech for a large-scale communications contractor comes out of his manager's office looking pretty unhappy, and this pilot fish asks what's got him down.

Why we love being on-call

Software developer works at a university teaching hospital doing support for problems the help desk can't handle -- and lucky him, he has the pager for Labor Day weekend.

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