The word drafting has many meanings but the one I’m interested in here comes from bicycling. When you ride closely behind another rider, you’re drafting. The leader pushes the headwinds out of the way, and the follower doesn’t have to push so hard.
Blogging can work that way too. I thought of this when I reallized that one of the benefits of subscribing to James Fallows is that I’m drafting on his interest in the fledgling air taxi industry. My interest in that topic is more than casual. I’ve interviewed DayJet founder Ed Iacobucci, for example. But James Fallows is way more deeply invested than I am, having written the seminal book on the topic, Free Flight.
I can do a pretty good job of tracking developments on that front by scanning the news, or better yet by subscribing to searches for terms like DayJet and Eclipse 500. But the best way is to draft on a blogger who is authoritative on the topic.
I don’t need to see every news story about DayJet, and pushing them all out of the way in order to focus on the ones that really matter is like pushing a headwind. But James Fallows is already motivated to push that headwind, so I can just draft on him. That way I get just the right air taxi newsfeed, with a dollop of expert analysis on top.
Happily, the analogy breaks down in a couple of ways. A cyclist can only draft on one other cyclist, and it’s a one-way relationship. The follower can’t simultaneously lead. With blogging, I can draft on many peoples’ interests, and many people can draft on mine, and sometimes the leader/follower relationship is reciprocal — I draft on you for topic A, and you draft on me for topic B.
For our purposes here, we can define blogging broadly to include the conventional format, but also microblogging formats like del.icio.us crumbtrails and Twitter tweets. Drafting, in the sense I mean here, can happen in any publish/subscribe medium.