Tom Gilson

Blogging By the “Least Mockable Unit”

Researchers speak of the “Least Publishable Unit” of their research. I’m borrowing that concept to coin a new term for blog commenting: the “Least Mockable Unit” or LMU. Here it is, defined:

“The LMU is whatever small snippet a commenter can find to
mock or sneer at in a blog post or previous comment.”

Carving an LMU out of some prior discussion is easy. It doesn’t require you to think about what the commenter before you was really trying to say. It doesn’t require you to deal with the whole course of an argument from one comment to the next, or even from the beginning to end of one comment. It absolves you of asking yourself, “Based on what I know about this person from other interactions, what did he or she really mean by this?”

It can be fun, too. Making jokes is entertaining, after all. Some people seem to think making their debate opponents look stupid is fun, too, and there’s nothing quite like an LMU to do that for you.

I think that’s why we see LMU blogging as often as we do. There aren’t many other good reasons. It’s certainly ungracious. It sets aside the fact that in the high-velocity, short-article form that blogging is by nature, not every thought is fully expressed in all of its nuance, nothing gets checked over by independent reviewers before it’s published, and as a result sometimes we need to go back and explain ourselves further. It happens to all of us.

And it doesn’t display much by way of thoughtful interaction with a discussion, either. By mocking an LMU, you can walk away feeling like you’ve knocked down your opponent’s whole argument. Usually, though, what it means is either that you haven’t noticed what the argument actually was, or that if you have noticed, you haven’t shown the integrity to address it for what it was.

LMU blogging is lame. Here’s a better way to approach it. Don’t look for LMUs. Don’t even look for GMUs (Greatest Mockable Units). Look for the strengths of your opponent’s argument. If you can find something there to dispute, then you’re probably on to something worthwhile.

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7 thoughts on “Blogging By the “Least Mockable Unit”

  1. I believe you have coined a most useful acronym- LMU. That plus a link to this blog entry should prove most useful to me in other forums. Mockery is a refuge for the arrogant.

  2. If one finds an LMU worthy of discussion – it would at least show that the entire post was read if some points of agreement are expressed before the narrower criticism begins.

    If there are no points of agreement outside the LMU then certainly a GMU is available

    I have a related post up on a term Mr. Lewis coined: Bulverism. There the critic explains to you your psychology in coming up with such a wrong idea, before bothering to explain why your idea was wrong.

  3. Thanks, William. You might have already guessed this, but I had Telic Thoughts in mind when I wrote this, too—probably even more than this blog. TT gets more than its fair share of LMU blogging.

  4. Look for the strengths of your opponent’s argument.

    Ha! strengths? What strengths? Obviously you have erected a strawman, ad hominem, appeal to authority fallacy and clearly are in the pay of those evil wicked [insert favorite villain here]. And you still haven’t addressed the my point #647 in the previous post. Besides… have you ever seen an argument pump iron? Then how could it have any strength?

    Just kidding 8^>

  5. I believe, and I may be wrong, that Least Publishable Unit is inspired by the Least Noticeable Difference of early research on perception. See also http://www.plexoft.com/SBF/L03.html#LPU, seems quite amusing. You might refine your definition by saying
    “The LMU is the least reading necessary of a blog post or previous comment which will allow the reader to mock or sneer at the blog or post in question.”

    Or not; I think we all get the point. Except for Dave. What’s wrong with that guy?

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