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.


There are programming standards, and then...this

This Cobol program is big, old and often modified, but it was developed under some reasonable software development standards. So why doesn't it seem to make any sense?

Unclear on the concept, special networking edition

IT manager accuses a cable installation team of substandard work that's slowing his network -- and this pilot fish is called in to investigate.

Case...er, DRAWER closed

User at this manufacturing plant calls the help desk because her PC keeps losing network connectivity -- and she says she even knows what's triggering the problem.

Can you hear me...right here?

IT pilot fish warns his boss that he's spending his time off in a cellular dead zone -- but these days, how likely is it that he'll REALLY be out of touch if he's needed?

Ah, summertime! Hot days, good fishing and, well...

If it's not a software fault or a network failure, why do all the PCs in this factory keep rebooting?

Details, details...

There are three steps to software development success: Try to buy instead of build. Check whether it's too hard to build in-house. And...what are we forgetting?

Ready, fire, aim!

This programming standards project has a high-level executive sponsor's support -- but there are still a few questions about it that really need answers.

If he wasn't so tidy, it might even have survived

Take one really long, neatly coiled network cable and leave it connected to a computer. Now what could make that REALLY cause a problem?

Unclear on the concept, plastic edition

Credit card security tip: Don't put all your card information in the same place. (No, really -- not even ALMOST in the same place.)

Back to the bleeding-edge future

It's the 1980s. How many IBM engineers does it take to admit that the hot new hardware is broken?

Four decades later, the same bugs keep popping up

Doctor's office offers patients a faster way to check in: Fill in a form online before the appointment. Which database errors did the developers make this time?

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