What better time for an explanation than a special occasion? And, as Lovely Bicycle is about to reach the ripe old age of 6 (an absurd age, in blogging years, let's be honest), we felt that we finally owed its audience one.
Please do not be cross with us, dear readers. Lovely Bicycle was not so much a deception, or a prank, as an experiment. A projet, if you will. In the French sense of the word.
At the start we were not certain which way to take this project. Be assured that many in-depth discussions were had on the topic with esteemed Institute colleagues. These were followed by just as many shallow discussions with colleagues who are altogether despised. At length, it was agreed to let the project itself lead us. And so it transpired, that over the course of its thematically meandering and lexically dubious run (which was not meant to exceed a year, according to our original plans!) what we had on our hands was not entirely unlike a piece of interactive software.
The information we are trying to disclose to you, gentlest of léitheoirí, is that Lovely Bicycle was, in large part, a projection of your - the audience's - own unconscious. The weblog some of you have grown to like, others to roll your eyes at, and others still to regard with utter indifference, was in fact a patchwork of your own fanciful imaginings, hidden desires, unanswered questions and thinly veiled anxieties - clustered loosely around the concept of the bicycle - or, perhaps more accurately, around what that concept represents to you - and arrived at via a sophisticated algorithm using information gleaned from your very own comments. The workings of this algorithm (which will make us very, very rich in due course!) we shall not burden your minds with at present.
Who are we, some of you might be wondering by now? We are a close-knit team (rather too close-knit, some have insinuated - but we implore you to ignore them!) of post-doctoral researchers at the Flann O'Brien Institut für Mathematische Entwicklungspsychologie in Klosterneuburg, Austria.
It is no coincidence, after all, that - as, no doubt only the oldest of readers will recall - the Lovely Bicycle blog began here, in the magnificent city of Vienna. One day, as our research group picnicked on the banks of the Danube River, the weather being too fine to hold our weekly lab meeting indoors, we remarked on the need to find a suitable subjectmatter for the testing of our algorithm. What could this subject matter be, hm? We considered interior decor, crafting, vintage fashions, cupcakes (this was 2009, you will forgive us), Holga photography and other trending affectations. Just then, a lady cyclist rolled past on the scenic Danuberadweg and the eyes of all colleagues met in rapturous, silent agreement. Bicycles. Oh lovely bicycles! Before the end of the workday our project was ready to launch.
Only in the most general of terms, we sketched out an identity for our lady bicycling blogger, and, as readership picked up the algorithm did the rest. Almost immediately, a preference emerged for certain styles of bicycles. Then, a husband appeared. Then a move to Boston (luckily, one of our colleagues was due to take up a visiting position there, rendering the change of locale unproblematic). When a personality began to take shape, we were intrigued to find our lady blogger on the hapless and neurotic side, overly wordy, provocative at times, and harbouring a subversive streak - rather too Viennese, if you will! But our job was not to question the algorithm. We tweaked parameters here and there, ensuring a steady growth in readership numbers and, most importantly, a healthy plumpness of comment content. But mostly we observed with interest, collected and analysed data, and merely followed the course of the project's development - which progressed very nicely indeed.
After a year's time we had all that we needed. But just as we hovered over the blog's "Delete" button, with a measure of sadness but also a great deal of relief (it was an exhausting project, truth be told!), an altogether unexpected turn of events took place. Businesses, real businesses, began to offer us payments (real payments!) to advertise on the Lovely Bicycle blog. At first we intended to ignore these requests. But the head of the Institut, upon learning the news, suggested a different strategy. Why not keep the blog running, at once as a means of observing the algorithm's long term effects and as a fundraising scheme for our research group? And so the blog persisted, and the project thrived.
At this stage some of you may be thinking: But what about the woman in the photos? Naturally, we used models. And yes, models plural: Two women portrayed the Lovely Bicycle author over the course of its run. Our original model was French doctoral student and fledgling cyclist Veronique Rayons (merci Vero!). Upon completing her degree and leaving Boston, she was replaced by Polish linguist, part-time theatre actress, and occasional randonneuse Agnieszka Rowerowa, who continued to appear in the photos till present time. Can you spot when the change took place? Some of you did! - though any remarks attempting to bring this to light were, of course, redacted. Overall the change went down remarkably smoothly, we thought.
And what of those of you who've "met" Lovely Bicycle in person, thus convinced of our bloggeress's realness? Well, certainly. You have met either Veronique or Agnieszka, depending on when this meeting took place. Both are exceedingly pleasant ladies, well-informed on the topic of cycling and thoroughly briefed on the Institut's algorithm project. In fact, so personable and charming are our models, that readers who met either woman would often express being pleasantly surprised, uttering remarks such as: "You are not nearly as tedious as your writing suggests!" and "Normally, bloggers come across as fun online, but turn out to be rigid and humorless in person. You're like totally the opposite of that!"
Indeed there is much to ponder about the ways of the algorithm.
But finally, on approaching the 5 year mark, the Board of Trustees at the Flann O'Brien Institut für Mathematische Entwicklungspsychologie agreed it was time to end the project. By now, we recognised that Lovely Bicycle had become an entity in its own right, with thousands of readers all over the world (though mostly in Boston and California) looking forward to reading it with their morning coffee and porridge. To end it abruptly would be cruel. Instead we tweaked the algorithm in hopes of letting it fade naturally. We decreased the frequency of posts, while engineering a divorce, a move to a remote, difficult to relate to location (conveniently, Agnieszka was due to take up a position at the University of Ulster), a decrease in bicycle acquisitions, and a subtle change in tone which we thought should prove unpopular with readers. As the readership numbers dwindled, we anticipated, the algorithm would begin to lose strength, until it stopped functioning altogether - a process we expected to take no longer than several months.
Alas, over a year later this expected result has not been attained. If anything, the algorithm seems to have adapted all too well to the new parameters - with readership numbers and comment content continuing to feed it. Meanwhile, the Institut no longer has the interest and resources to maintain the project, advertising or no advertising. We need to, as they say, stop f*ing around, and focus all our energies on preparing the algorithm for commercial use. You understand.
And so this is why, most precious of legentium, today we thank you for the role you have played in our project, as we announce the end of Lovely Bicycle and bid you all a fond good-bye.
Flann O'Brien Institut für Mathematische Entwicklungspsychologie