Today is the first day of the rest of your Fast Forward. So welcome back--or just welcome. Some of you may be reading us for the first time; all of you are reading us for the first time here. We suspect you all may have questions about this enterprise.
Q. Why did you move from Weekend?
A. We needed more space, and we needed to be easier to find. Old FFWD hands will recall that, until last week, we appeared on the second-to-last page of each Weekend section; eight times a year, we ran eight-page pullout sections in the middle of Weekend. Here in Business, by contrast, we're in a easy-to-find location that gives us a lot more room to do our thing.
Q. Sorry, I'm new to this thing. Who are you, and what do you do?
A. Fast Forward is The Post's personal-technology section. "Personal technology" means computers (desktop, portable or handheld), peripherals, software, Web sites, online services, home telecommunications, gadgets and emerging consumer-electronics categories such as DVD or small-dish satellite TV. If it's somehow electronic, it's in the store and you can't quite figure out either what it does or how to use it, it's our job to explain and assess it.
Q. Doesn't, like, everybody do that these days? What makes you so special?
A. I can't imagine it's particularly special, but we don't like debugging computers much. We don't like administering the three-fingered-salute (Ctrl-Alt-Del or Cmd-Ctrl-Power, depending on PC or Mac) to restart that beige box on the desk. We don't like having to break out a manual when the "wizard" interface lets us down, and we really don't like waiting on hold for telephone help. This means that when we look at, say, a word processor or a handheld organizer, the two most important things are ease of use and reliability. We don't run benchmark testing programs when we review computers; we're more interested in which one is a better value for the money, which one is less likely to force us to memorize the manual to set it up and which one comes with the less fascist tech-support policy. A few MHz of clock speed won't make much of a difference in how fast the computer takes to reboot, how slow Word's spell-checker runs or how pokey your Internet connection is.
Q. So you're in Business now. Are you going to be another version of Tech Thursday?
A. Nope. Tech Thursday is all about the business of technology--the people and companies in the area that make this stuff. We are all about you, the non-venture-capital-collecting home consumer. Tech Thursday does review office-level technology, but that's the very thing that we don't cover. Put it another way: If you can take a tax deduction on it, if your office paid for it or if you have a help desk down the hall to troubleshoot it, you probably won't read about it in Fast Forward. We'll also still be reviewing games and other entertainment software that we're sure nobody has ever used in a professional office environment.
Q. Then isn't the Business section an odd location for you wild and crazy guys?
A. Au contraire! For one thing, Business taught us everything we know about Pokemon. For another, this is where so much of The Post's technology coverage lives. For a long time, people have been asking us, "Why aren't you guys with the rest of the tech stuff?" Well, why not?
Q. What's going to happen to the tech coverage in the Monday Washington Business section?
A. Gone. As part of our move, the space taken up by the Cybertalk column, software reviews and the top-10 list has been reassigned to us. Washington Business will continue to profile local technology companies, however.
Q. What's happening to all the stuff we liked from the old Fast Forward, like the pullout sections?
A. The pullout sections will still be here, but they won't exactly be pullouts anymore. Once a month (excluding this December) we'll run an expanded version of this section, exploring one topic in depth. Next Friday, for instance, we look at cell phones; next month comes our fourth (!) annual directory of local Internet providers.
Q. What's new here?
A. Plenty. First there's the feature above this column, a vastly expanded version of the story that used to lead our page in Weekend. Then there's this column, more of which later. Inside you'll find Get Info, a weekly compendium of personal-tech developments--updates on recently reviewed products, new briefs, reader comments and online and offline events. (It all should look pretty familiar to those of you who subscribe to our monthly e-mail newsletter, the Fast Friday Club). We will be running about twice as many reviews as before, and our www.worthit column--our guide to Web sites with real-world utility--continues as before.
Q. So what is the deal with this column?
A. This is all about living with technology: What works, what doesn't and--to the extent that anybody can find out--why. I'll be looking at the industry fashions with my moderately cynical eye and trying to answer that important but often overlooked question: Why should you care?
Q. I used to read y'all right after the Nightwatch column in Weekend; now I can't, and I want to complain.
A. You can e-mail us with your complaint, comment or question at email@example.com. If you want your message to be considered for the Get Info column or as a letter to the editor, please include your name and city. You can also e-mail me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can accost me at washingtonpost.com during one of my online discussions (say, this afternoon's). The rest of our contact data appears in Get Info this and every week. Don't be a stranger, okay?
Rob Pegoraro will host a Web chat today at noon about changes in Fast Forward, as well as handheld organizers and personal-finance software. To participate, visit http:/www.washingtonpost.com.