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 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.

Programming is typing code, right? So type faster!

This bank's IT group gets a new director, and to the delight of one pilot fish, it turns out he started his career as a programmer. Finally, a boss who understands!

Sometimes that penny just takes a while to drop

Programmer pilot fish receives an email with an attached document and a pretty standard request: Make updates and return it. But then the sender adds a new requirement.

Well, since you offered...

Pilot fish gets a call from the IT manager, who wants to know if fish has set up the extension number for a new accounting employee -- and things go downhill from there.

Not quite what he thought success would sound like

This company is trying to get a Japanese supplier to cut component prices and it's not going well, so a purchasing manager is heading for Japan -- but he needs a laptop.

Throwback Thursday: Well, we got Y2K right, anyhow

Pilot fish's new alarm clock has an iPod dock, nature sounds, two alarms, and a button to make switching to Daylight Saving Time really simple -- but there's a catch.

Consulting like it's 1999

It's a year before Y2K, and this company is desperate to make sure its workstations and aging mainframe make it to the year 2000. But there's a plan -- and a consultant.

Just one, um, great idea after another

Sysadmin is instructed to create an account for the IT director that gives him the same capabilities as the lead programmer. What could possibly go wrong with that?

Smart, redefined

Healthcare IT vendor decides to improve its corporate IT help desk's productivity by rolling out a new approach to user support called Smart Help -- and it's not helping.

The lifeline

This seasoned ex-mainframer is sailing smoothly toward retirement by managing a factory's AS/400, until a hardware issue turns very bad -- and it looks like he's sunk.

Throwback Thursday: Doing it the hard way

One of this software manager's more IT-challenged users approaches him to ask for a lesson in attaching documents to emails -- which it turns out he really, REALLY needs.

The price of quality

This company's parts require rigorous quality control, and they're X-rayed before they're shipped to customers -- but that's not quite as useful as it needs to be.

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