Posted on 03.12.09 to Twitter by Oliver

The SAP Affinity Group as a Model for Twitter Groups

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 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.

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Comments ( 3 )

Watched your London presentation on SDN and was really impressed. Awesome idea to use a wordpress plugin to power the whole thing! My only concern was adding too much stuff into the stream (videos, pictures). In my opinion just focusing on tweets should make it easier to really nail the problem and not get sidetracked.

Really miss the geek-lunches we had last year. But I am glad to see that you can finally implement some ideas which we tossed around during that time.


Thomas added these pithy words on Apr 07 09 at 6:35 pm

Hi Oliver,

It is interesting to have a grouping. If after a couple of hours I sometimes have 100s of tweets from the folks I am following on @finnern, I check SAP Mentors, which is only following SAP Mentors themselves. It is a great view into what is going on for that subgroup.

Keep up the good work, Mark.

Mark Finnern added these pithy words on May 04 09 at 6:58 am

Hi Mark,

thanks for your feedback! Yes, that is one motivation behind doing it, to get an insight into what our nice bunch of SAP fellows is talking about. I do also sometimes switch to the @SAPAffinityGrp account just to get a more narrow view into SAP topics. But I think there is much more we can do to get a better exposure and show people what drives us and our conversations and to distill the important topics. Stay tuned!

admin added these pithy words on May 08 09 at 4:14 am

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