Shark tank: Do-it-yourself spam

FRAMINGHAM (12/12/2003) - Infuriated executive tells pilot fish this well-known online retailer just won't stop sending her spam. "She claimed she had written to the company asking them to stop, but every day, she received yet another e-mail," says fish. So fish sends an e-mail to the retailer's customer service group explaining the situation and asking for help -- and promptly receives an automatic response. That's when the penny drops. "They weren't actively sending her anything," fish sighs. "Every time my user sent them an e-mail asking them to take her off their mailing list, she received an autoresponse to the mail she sent."

That would explain it

User complains about the fact that she's being kicked out of the billing system every day just after 1 p.m. IT pilot fish replaces the keyboard to make sure that's not what's doing it, but finally figures it out after setting up a program that logs the user's activities. "Seems the user goes to lunch at 11 a.m., and user's boss goes at noon," fish says. "By the time the boss comes back, user hasn't done any work after lunch -- and after two hours of inactivity, the system was kicking her out."

The best revenge

The day after this IT pilot fish is laid off, she hears from former co-workers that a new directive has come down from the big bosses: All laid-off employees are to be removed from the voice-mail system immediately. "My boss came back to them after an hour and told them the problem," fish says, "The only one who knew how to take people out of the voice-mail system -- me -- just got laid off. I had a hearty laugh at that one!"

Um, no

Consultant pilot fish's gig is doing installation and training for a network management package, and he thinks he's heard it all. But at the first-day meet-and-greet session at a big financial client, an executive still surprises him with his question: "If we have a computer in a closet, unplugged and not used for years, can your software find it?"

It never ends

It's the early 1970s, and this intern pilot fish draws the task of upgrading a program that tracks small quantities of precious metals. "The newly upgraded scales could weigh scrap gold to eight-digit precision, but the computer would only add it up to six digits," fish says. He rewrites the program so it performs 12-digit math, and the users are delighted -- for the first month or two. "After I left," fish reports, "they went out and bought a new scale -- with 14-digit precision.

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