Amazing as Twitter is for talking to people and finding all the latest news, it does have one major drawback: it can be relatively difficult to find people that relate to your personal interests, that actually help you get the most out of Twitter for your specific needs. There have been several attempts to place a group layer such as www.twittgroups.com on top of Twitter, but none of them worked for me. For one reason or another, they never bring together the right kind of people and they tend to get easily invaded by spammers. From my perspective, they all lack a moderator, someone who ensures only people with relevant interests can join a group.
On the quest for a better answer I created a wiki page for Twitter accounts that relate to one of my personal interests, the SAP ecosystem. It started with a blank page onto which I encouraged a couple of my friends from the SAP world to add their Twitter accounts. I never add anybody to the page myself, but I encourage everybody to add their own accounts (the page is open for public editing). To make it easier for everybody to identify the most relevant people to follow, I added subgroups by using simple headlines. Later on I added a better description of the page to the header and, as a matter of netiquette, I asked visitors to add all new accounts to the bottom of each subgroup.
This approach has worked out quite well over the last couple of months, and the SAP Affinity Group has grown to an impressive list of over 100 unique Twitter accounts in several subgroups such as SAP employees, consultants and SAP Mentors. Apart from occasional mentions of the wiki page that I have posted on Twitter, the existence of the wiki page has spread by word of mouth – see, for example, this video posted by fellow SAP Mentor Jon Reed – and only very little moderation is necessary to keep it in good shape. It sometimes happens that someone messes up the formatting because of the less than obvious wiki syntax, but most of the times that isn’t a problem at all. Overall the wiki has been of great help both in terms of finding people in our ecosystem who are also on Twitter and in terms of becoming known in the community by adding one’s own account to the page. The wiki also has an RSS feed showing the latest changes, which allows you to spot new people added to the page.
What is really missing now is a front end that would allow one to follow the whole group, a subgroup or any number of accounts from that page. The specific wiki I’m running (DokuWiki) has an XMLRPC interface which would make this possible, and other wikis probably have similar ways to read their content. Following some basic guidelines, for instance, listing only one account per line, the page content itself shouldn’t be to hard to parse. And because the interface works both ways, a new user could request to be added to the list by using the follow function. It would be probably a good idea to add some kind of approval process for adding new accounts but these would be minor details to work out.
Maybe a next step would be to see this approach in a broader context of a system of Twitter group pages in independent wikis that can be accessed over a unified interface from a central web site. This would solve the problem of finding a specific interest group and could provide basic maintenance services for group moderators.