When Google’s Gmail went down this week it was an OMG moment.


OMG is the mnemonic Google engineers use to describe major product failures.

It stands for “Outage Management at Google”, which is both undeniably descriptive and a great example of a reverse-engineered mnemonic.

Many companies have code words to indicate when things go south.

The military has its “Defcon” scale. Defcon 5 is the lowest state of readiness and Defcon 1 means “nuclear war is imminent.”

The engineers at one boutique firm in New York have a “severity” scale of SEV0 (a catastrophic world impacting event) to SEV4.

Another major Wall Street firm uses the acronym WIRMs (World Incident Risk Management).

At Bloomberg we have “WPs.” The acronym stands for “World Problem.” The designation was created twenty years ago.

The criteria are admittedly a bit gray but generally it is applied for an outage that 1) affects everyone 2) is present in a common workflow 3) prevents a user from getting their “work done”.

The first WP was posted on Sept 11, 2000 (one year before the 9/11 attacks) and involved a failure to correctly display trading volumes for Spanish stocks.

There were obviously glitches and outages before that time (Bloomberg was founded in 1981) but the business was smaller, less complex and less global.

Engineers realized they needed a way to communicate to their colleagues that not just was something broken, but it was something really important.

h/t mark dimont