[uf-new] Proposed Microformats: hRebuttal, hEvidence, hSource, hConclusion and hArgument

Costello, Roger L. costello at mitre.org
Thu May 24 10:21:05 PDT 2007


I propose the creation of several Microformats for identifying the
parts of an argument.


Michael Crichton says: "The greatest challenge facing mankind is the
challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from
propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to
mankind, but in the information age (or as I think of it, the
disinformation age) it takes on a special urgency and importance." 
The proposed Microformats should go a long way toward facilitating a
web of trust.


These are standalone Microformats (that is, each one can be used alone,
without using any others):
1. hRebuttal: this provides circumstances or conditions that undermine
an argument; it represents any reservations or "exceptions to the rule"
that undermines the reasoning expressed in an argument or the backing
for it.

Rebuttals are often found in journals, blogs, wiki discussions,
presidential debate transcripts, and list messages. 

This Microformat has an optional subproperty, type, that succinctly
expresses the kind of error made in an argument.  These are the legal
values of the type subproperty:

   - lack-of-evidence (the argument does not have sufficient evidence)
   - contrary-evidence (there exists contrary evidence)
   - exaggeration (the argument has valid points, but makes claims that
exceed the evidence provided) 
   - ad-hominem (the argument is based on a personal attack of the
                 and not the person's ideas; or, the argument is based
on a 
                 high opinion of the person and not his ideas)
   - ... this list needs to be expanded

Example Usage: For centuries there has been a belief that garlic lowers
cholesterol. Recently this popular belief was rebutted and the rebuttal
was published on the Web:

<div class="hrebuttal">
     <span class="type">contrary-evidence</span>
     <span class="value">Garlic is widely promoted as a
cholesterol-lowering agent, but efficacy studies have produced
conflicting results ...</span>  

Note: rebuttals can have rebuttals (counter-rebuttal)

2. hEvidence: this is the grounds for, or data for, the arguer's claims

Example Usage: the garlic supplement industry gives evidence of the
benefits of garlic in lowering cholesterol. Here's evidence provided at
one web page:

<div class="hevidence">In a large study of 220 patients, the garlic
group took 800 milligrams of a powdered garlic for four months. This
group experienced a 12 percent drop in cholesterol and a 17 percent
drop in triglycerides. The placebo group had little change.</div>

3. hSource: the source of information used in an argument.  

Example Usage: here's a snippet of a web page that argues against the
ability of garlic to lower cholesterol.  It identifies the Stanford
researcher Dr Christopher Gardner as the source of information:

The scientists, led by 
<div class="hsource vcard">
    <span class="fn n">
        <span class="honorific-prefix">Dr</span> 
        <span class="given-name">Christopher</span> 
        <span class="family-name">Gardner</span>
    at the 
    <span class="org">Stanford Prevention Research Center</span>, 
    <span class="adr">
        <span class="region">California</span>,
tested raw garlic ...

This example shows an hCard as the value of hSource.  In general,
however, the value of hSource may be diverse.  For example, it may be a
web page or an organization. So its value should not be restricted to
only an hCard.

4. hConclusion: this is the expressed opinion or claim that the arguer
wants accepted by the audience

Example Usage: here's a snippet of a web page by a garlic supplement
company that concludes garlic lowers cholesterol:

<div class="hconclusion">A safe, mild, totally natural product such as
a quality garlic supplement or other supplements that have been
scientifically proven to lower cholesterol, could radically reduce


The above Microformats may be used individually (i.e., standalone).
They may also be used as part of an hArgument Microformat:

    hRebuttal (repeatable)
    hEvidence (repeatable)
    hSource (repeatable)
    hConclusion (repeatable)


What is the opposite of a rebuttal?  How does one express positive
support, if one feels the argument is well-made?  Perhaps a Microformat
is needed for this?


Arguments, rebuttals, identifying sources, stating conclusions are
ubiquitous on the web.  It's hard to find a web page or blog or wiki
article or listsrv message that doesn't contain at least one part of an
argument.  Here are the web pages I referenced in the examples above:



This web page argues in favor of immigration, providing evidence and


This transcript of the U.S. Democratic Presidential debate is a rich
example of where the Microformats could be applied:


The Microformats would greatly assist post debate analysis.




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