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Definition - What does Whack-A-Mole mean?

IT professionals and others might use the term “whack-a-mole” to describe a process where a pervasive problem keeps recurring after it is supposedly fixed, or any situation where some type of undesirable outcome is recurring. This term is based on a metaphor where an arcade game called Whac-A-Mole invites players to hit a series of pop-up animals with a mallet.

Techopedia explains Whack-A-Mole

In IT, examples of whack-a-mole would include labor-intensive processes like continually deleting spammers' accounts, only to see new accounts proliferate, or cleaning viruses and malware off of computers, only to see them become re-infected. Another good example is a user trying to close a series of pop-up windows that keep popping up in a Web browser. Whether or not this turns into a game of whack-a-mole involves the intensity and aggression of pop-up design — in some cases, it is as easy as clicking out of two or three pop-up screens, but more aggressive pop-up designs require users to keep clicking, closing windows as new ones pop up.

Where whack-a-mole might be involved in an end-user process like closing pop-ups, it is probably more often discussed in more intensive research and maintenance efforts. For example, network administrators might talk about playing whack-a-mole and closing security loopholes or doing other administrative work to secure a network.

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