Shahbaz Syed


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Frame-oriented Summarization of Argumentative Discussions
Shahbaz Syed | Timon Ziegenbein | Philipp Heinisch | Henning Wachsmuth | Martin Potthast
Proceedings of the 24th Annual Meeting of the Special Interest Group on Discourse and Dialogue

Online discussions on controversial topics with many participants frequently include hundreds of arguments that cover different framings of the topic. But these arguments and frames are often spread across the various branches of the discussion tree structure. This makes it difficult for interested participants to follow the discussion in its entirety as well as to introduce new arguments. In this paper, we present a new rank-based approach to extractive summarization of online discussions focusing on argumentation frames that capture the different aspects of a discussion. Our approach includes three retrieval tasks to find arguments in a discussion that are (1) relevant to a frame of interest, (2) relevant to the topic under discussion, and (3) informative to the reader. Based on a joint ranking by these three criteria for a set of user-selected frames, our approach allows readers to quickly access an ongoing discussion. We evaluate our approach using a test set of 100 controversial Reddit ChangeMyView discussions, for which the relevance of a total of 1871 arguments was manually annotated.

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A New Dataset for Causality Identification in Argumentative Texts
Khalid Al Khatib | Michael Voelske | Anh Le | Shahbaz Syed | Martin Potthast | Benno Stein
Proceedings of the 24th Annual Meeting of the Special Interest Group on Discourse and Dialogue

Existing datasets for causality identification in argumentative texts have several limitations, such as the type of input text (e.g., only claims), causality type (e.g., only positive), and the linguistic patterns investigated (e.g., only verb connectives). To resolve these limitations, we build the Webis-Causality-23 dataset, with sophisticated inputs (all units from arguments), a balanced distribution of causality types, and a larger number of linguistic patterns denoting causality. The dataset contains 1485 examples derived by combining the two paradigms of distant supervision and uncertainty sampling to identify diverse, high-quality samples of causality relations, and annotate them in a cost-effective manner.

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Modeling Appropriate Language in Argumentation
Timon Ziegenbein | Shahbaz Syed | Felix Lange | Martin Potthast | Henning Wachsmuth
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Online discussion moderators must make ad-hoc decisions about whether the contributions of discussion participants are appropriate or should be removed to maintain civility. Existing research on offensive language and the resulting tools cover only one aspect among many involved in such decisions. The question of what is considered appropriate in a controversial discussion has not yet been systematically addressed. In this paper, we operationalize appropriate language in argumentation for the first time. In particular, we model appropriateness through the absence of flaws, grounded in research on argument quality assessment, especially in aspects from rhetoric. From these, we derive a new taxonomy of 14 dimensions that determine inappropriate language in online discussions. Building on three argument quality corpora, we then create a corpus of 2191 arguments annotated for the 14 dimensions. Empirical analyses support that the taxonomy covers the concept of appropriateness comprehensively, showing several plausible correlations with argument quality dimensions. Moreover, results of baseline approaches to assessing appropriateness suggest that all dimensions can be modeled computationally on the corpus.


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SUMMARY WORKBENCH: Unifying Application and Evaluation of Text Summarization Models
Shahbaz Syed | Dominik Schwabe | Martin Potthast
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing: System Demonstrations

This paper presents Summary Workbench, a new tool for developing and evaluating text summarization models. New models and evaluation measures can be easily integrated as Docker-based plugins, allowing to examine the quality of their summaries against any input and to evaluate them using various evaluation measures. Visual analyses combining multiple measures provide insights into the models’ strengths and weaknesses. The tool is hosted at and also supports local deployment for private resources.


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Key Point Analysis via Contrastive Learning and Extractive Argument Summarization
Milad Alshomary | Timon Gurcke | Shahbaz Syed | Philipp Heinisch | Maximilian Spliethöver | Philipp Cimiano | Martin Potthast | Henning Wachsmuth
Proceedings of the 8th Workshop on Argument Mining

Key point analysis is the task of extracting a set of concise and high-level statements from a given collection of arguments, representing the gist of these arguments. This paper presents our proposed approach to the Key Point Analysis Shared Task, colocated with the 8th Workshop on Argument Mining. The approach integrates two complementary components. One component employs contrastive learning via a siamese neural network for matching arguments to key points; the other is a graph-based extractive summarization model for generating key points. In both automatic and manual evaluation, our approach was ranked best among all submissions to the shared task.

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Counter-Argument Generation by Attacking Weak Premises
Milad Alshomary | Shahbaz Syed | Arkajit Dhar | Martin Potthast | Henning Wachsmuth
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL-IJCNLP 2021

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Generating Informative Conclusions for Argumentative Texts
Shahbaz Syed | Khalid Al Khatib | Milad Alshomary | Henning Wachsmuth | Martin Potthast
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL-IJCNLP 2021

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Summary Explorer: Visualizing the State of the Art in Text Summarization
Shahbaz Syed | Tariq Yousef | Khalid Al Khatib | Stefan Jänicke | Martin Potthast
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing: System Demonstrations

This paper introduces Summary Explorer, a new tool to support the manual inspection of text summarization systems by compiling the outputs of 55 state-of-the-art single document summarization approaches on three benchmark datasets, and visually exploring them during a qualitative assessment. The underlying design of the tool considers three well-known summary quality criteria (coverage, faithfulness, and position bias), encapsulated in a guided assessment based on tailored visualizations. The tool complements existing approaches for locally debugging summarization models and improves upon them. The tool is available at


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Target Inference in Argument Conclusion Generation
Milad Alshomary | Shahbaz Syed | Martin Potthast | Henning Wachsmuth
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

In argumentation, people state premises to reason towards a conclusion. The conclusion conveys a stance towards some target, such as a concept or statement. Often, the conclusion remains implicit, though, since it is self-evident in a discussion or left out for rhetorical reasons. However, the conclusion is key to understanding an argument and, hence, to any application that processes argumentation. We thus study the question to what extent an argument’s conclusion can be reconstructed from its premises. In particular, we argue here that a decisive step is to infer a conclusion’s target, and we hypothesize that this target is related to the premises’ targets. We develop two complementary target inference approaches: one ranks premise targets and selects the top-ranked target as the conclusion target, the other finds a new conclusion target in a learned embedding space using a triplet neural network. Our evaluation on corpora from two domains indicates that a hybrid of both approaches is best, outperforming several strong baselines. According to human annotators, we infer a reasonably adequate conclusion target in 89% of the cases.

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Exploiting Personal Characteristics of Debaters for Predicting Persuasiveness
Khalid Al Khatib | Michael Völske | Shahbaz Syed | Nikolay Kolyada | Benno Stein
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Predicting the persuasiveness of arguments has applications as diverse as writing assistance, essay scoring, and advertising. While clearly relevant to the task, the personal characteristics of an argument’s source and audience have not yet been fully exploited toward automated persuasiveness prediction. In this paper, we model debaters’ prior beliefs, interests, and personality traits based on their previous activity, without dependence on explicit user profiles or questionnaires. Using a dataset of over 60,000 argumentative discussions, comprising more than three million individual posts collected from the subreddit r/ChangeMyView, we demonstrate that our modeling of debater’s characteristics enhances the prediction of argument persuasiveness as well as of debaters’ resistance to persuasion.

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Task Proposal: Abstractive Snippet Generation for Web Pages
Shahbaz Syed | Wei-Fan Chen | Matthias Hagen | Benno Stein | Henning Wachsmuth | Martin Potthast
Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Natural Language Generation

We propose a shared task on abstractive snippet generation for web pages, a novel task of generating query-biased abstractive summaries for documents that are to be shown on a search results page. Conventional snippets are extractive in nature, which recently gave rise to copyright claims from news publishers as well as a new copyright legislation being passed in the European Union, limiting the fair use of web page contents for snippets. At the same time, abstractive summarization has matured considerably in recent years, potentially allowing for more personalization of snippets in the future. Taken together, these facts render further research into generating abstractive snippets both timely and promising.

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News Editorials: Towards Summarizing Long Argumentative Texts
Shahbaz Syed | Roxanne El Baff | Johannes Kiesel | Khalid Al Khatib | Benno Stein | Martin Potthast
Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

The automatic summarization of argumentative texts has hardly been explored. This paper takes a further step in this direction, targeting news editorials, i.e., opinionated articles with a well-defined argumentation structure. With Webis-EditorialSum-2020, we present a corpus of 1330 carefully curated summaries for 266 news editorials. We evaluate these summaries based on a tailored annotation scheme, where a high-quality summary is expected to be thesis-indicative, persuasive, reasonable, concise, and self-contained. Our corpus contains at least three high-quality summaries for about 90% of the editorials, rendering it a valuable resource for the development and evaluation of summarization technology for long argumentative texts. We further report details of both, an in-depth corpus analysis, and the evaluation of two extractive summarization models.


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Towards Summarization for Social Media - Results of the TL;DR Challenge
Shahbaz Syed | Michael Völske | Nedim Lipka | Benno Stein | Hinrich Schütze | Martin Potthast
Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Natural Language Generation

In this paper, we report on the results of the TL;DR challenge, discussing an extensive manual evaluation of the expected properties of a good summary based on analyzing the comments provided by human annotators.


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Task Proposal: The TL;DR Challenge
Shahbaz Syed | Michael Völske | Martin Potthast | Nedim Lipka | Benno Stein | Hinrich Schütze
Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Natural Language Generation

The TL;DR challenge fosters research in abstractive summarization of informal text, the largest and fastest-growing source of textual data on the web, which has been overlooked by summarization research so far. The challenge owes its name to the frequent practice of social media users to supplement long posts with a “TL;DR”—for “too long; didn’t read”—followed by a short summary as a courtesy to those who would otherwise reply with the exact same abbreviation to indicate they did not care to read a post for its apparent length. Posts featuring TL;DR summaries form an excellent ground truth for summarization, and by tapping into this resource for the first time, we have mined millions of training examples from social media, opening the door to all kinds of generative models.

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Retrieval of the Best Counterargument without Prior Topic Knowledge
Henning Wachsmuth | Shahbaz Syed | Benno Stein
Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Given any argument on any controversial topic, how to counter it? This question implies the challenging retrieval task of finding the best counterargument. Since prior knowledge of a topic cannot be expected in general, we hypothesize the best counterargument to invoke the same aspects as the argument while having the opposite stance. To operationalize our hypothesis, we simultaneously model the similarity and dissimilarity of pairs of arguments, based on the words and embeddings of the arguments’ premises and conclusions. A salient property of our model is its independence from the topic at hand, i.e., it applies to arbitrary arguments. We evaluate different model variations on millions of argument pairs derived from the web portal Systematic ranking experiments suggest that our hypothesis is true for many arguments: For 7.6 candidates with opposing stance on average, we rank the best counterargument highest with 60% accuracy. Even among all 2801 test set pairs as candidates, we still find the best one about every third time.


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TL;DR: Mining Reddit to Learn Automatic Summarization
Michael Völske | Martin Potthast | Shahbaz Syed | Benno Stein
Proceedings of the Workshop on New Frontiers in Summarization

Recent advances in automatic text summarization have used deep neural networks to generate high-quality abstractive summaries, but the performance of these models strongly depends on large amounts of suitable training data. We propose a new method for mining social media for author-provided summaries, taking advantage of the common practice of appending a “TL;DR” to long posts. A case study using a large Reddit crawl yields the Webis-TLDR-17 dataset, complementing existing corpora primarily from the news genre. Our technique is likely applicable to other social media sites and general web crawls.