Shahbaz Syed


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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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.