The beauty of living in Italy

A few days after the end of a fantastic Milano Design Week, where Milan blossomed around the world leading event in furniture and home design, let me reflect on one of the reasons why for me there’s no place like home: the quality of our homes.

I have lived in Germany, United States, Spain and Switzerland, and, outside the very top end of the real estate market – and often not even there, as plenty of Silicon Valley millionaires are known to live in rickety wood-frame houses, whose anti-seismic qualities are their only redeeming virtue – I have yet to see a place where the quality of urban living is as high as Italy. Our architects, designers, furniture makers are the reason why everybody aspires to “Italian living”. And they tell me that their Italian customers are the ones pushing them towards excellence: they won’t tolerate a lackadaisical design, a slapdash assembly, an imperfect color scheme. Having an exacting clientele at home makes our home design industry a worldwide winner.

I also want to take the opportunity to thank the superlative interior design team for the Milan home I recently furnished and moved into. Many people played a role, but here are the key ones:

A few images of the work in progress and the end product.

20140325_173627VLUU L110  / Samsung L110VLUU L110  / Samsung L110

VLUU L110  / Samsung L110

VLUU L110  / Samsung L110

iOS 7, and why Android still wins for me

iOS 7 is now with us, and while we get used to its clean, spare look, let me tell you why I think Apple has missed a major opportunity to catch up with Android.

On the left is my iPad, recently updated with iOS 7; on the right, my Galaxy Note (admittedly a large device for a phone, but one that I carry everywhere because it fits in any purse and still isn’t too large to have a phone conversation), carrying Android 4.1.2 (which isn’t even a very new version of Jelly Bean). Here are three reasons why I prefer Android by far.

Numbers row

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You’ll notice something that makes all the difference in the world: with the Galaxy Note, if you are typing letters and numbers, you don’t have to keep toggling back and forth: they are all there on the same keyboard. As far as I’ve been able to find out he iPad, with all that screen real estate, does not allow me to have them together.

Predictive typing

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Tweeting, posting quick text updates, and writing in general are all much faster with the Android keyboard. Try it especially with longish words. In this example, I can pick “absolutely” from the suggestions row after typing just three letters. With iOS, it takes nine letters before it knows what I need.

Filling forms

 

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Don’t know about you, but to me it feels like I fill in forms all the time. There is, especially, one piece of information that goes into all sort of logins, order forms, verification screens and so on: my email address. Android offers it to me in the suggestions row after just four letters; in iOS, I have to type it out in full every time. This gets, shall we say, repetitive.

If you have suggestions to help me improve my iOS 7 experience, please let me know in the comments (“Leave a reply” link). Otherwise, I think the iPad will stay at home more and more often, while the Galaxy Note comes out with me.

 

Improving performance through better board engagement. From McKinsey

The opening McKinsey Quarterly for this year is one of the best issues I’ve read in recent years. (All the pieces linked here require a free registration). One article talks about making time management an organizational matter rather than leaving it to individuals; another one covers six social media skills every leader needs; another addresses increasing the “meaning quotient” of work. But the central set of features this quarter is about improving performance through better board engagement. I highly recommend reading all five articles:

Bonus feature: the first modern organization chart (1855), a true class act by railroad engineer and manager Daniel McCallum. You can see the board of directors at the bottom of this exquisite tree.

The world's first organization chart

Lorenzo Petrantoni. “The Internet? That’s a world I know nothing about”

Today I caught the last day of Timestory, the exhibition of Lorenzo Petrantoni‘s graphic work at the gallery of Credito Valtellinese in Milan.

The artist was present. I complimented him on the exhibition and had a brief chat with him. We talked about his visual sources such as 19th-century books, and I remarked that Max Ernst too made collages out of old old illustration books.

“But you scan everything and then do the work on the computer, right?”

“No, I actually cut up everything with scissors and do the work by hand. I use the computer only at the end, for finishing.”

“Oh, I had no idea. I thought graphic artists were completely digital by now. See how misinformed I am.”

“And what do you do?”

“Well, I do Internet stuff.”

“The Internet? That’s a world I know nothing about”.

“Nothing? That’s too bad. For example, I’m sure you could buy a lot of old illustrated books for cheap on eBay.”

“eBay? Not sure… But there’s one thing I do I do on the Internet: I buy old books on AbeBooks. After all, I couldn’t very well travel each time to buy them.”

“You see? That’s great. And this here on the tripod is your camera?”

“Yes, I am documenting everything. It is the last day of the show. Kind of sorry to dismantle it.”

“Well yeah, that makes sense. How long did it take you to put up the Timestory on the big wall? You must have had assistants helping you out, right?”

“Yes, there were three of us. But still, it’s 22,000 small pieces of paper, so it took us about ten days. And the exhibition is only one month. The PR did not work out too well. Too bad. Just as it was picking up, people were starting to come…”

“Well, that’s right. I only came myself because my friend Serena tweeted about it yesterday.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes. Well then. Nice meeting you. Well done, again.”

“Thanks. Nice meeting you, too.”

One wonders, if this charming man had had a thousand Facebook fans, or a hundred Twitter followers, and they had liked and retweeted the news of the exhibition, and their friends and followers had liked it and so on… the exhibition would have been packed on day one (entry was free, too). But he’s just not into it (except for buying the books).

Below: Une Semaine de Bonté, the cover of Max Ernst’s collage book. Two works by Ashley Bickerton. An umbrella by Marcel Wanders.

Fiat 500 Abarth, or On Stereotypes in Advertising

Just hearing the Fiat Superbowl commercial on the radio as I was driving home today made me think: is this straight out of the Mad Men era? Wasn’t it a trite cliché years ago to personify a desirable car in the image of a desirable woman? And all that copy about ogling, undressing, owning? Do women not buy cars, in the world as Fiat sees it? Do women not buy small cars, for heavens’ sake?

Then I watched it on YouTube and I was further dismayed. Feel free to tell me that I have no sense of humor, but it is not clever if you make white latte foam trickle down between the woman’s breasts; it is sophomoric. There must be other ways to get a young single male target segment to take an interest in a zippy car with a shift stick. I hope. I do hope.

The secret sauce in the Google+ design: AngelList

In the couple of weeks since Google+ was unveiled, oceans of digital ink have been poured in reviewing the service, sharing tips and tricks, loving/hating Google for it, as well as in the ultimately futile exercise of predicting whether it will succeed.

I have abstained from such predictions. I have not yet, however, come across any commenters remarking on the Google+ look and feel: it seems to me very much that it took its inspiration from AngelList, the business angels hangout started by Naval Ravikant and Babak Nivi. That is, perhaps, because it is (rightly) difficult to get invited to join AngelList, and therefore a lot fewer people have access to it than to Google+.

But if you look at two screenshots, the resemblance is evident. I sometimes have trouble telling which page I’m on. (Then, of course, I read the content). Do you share this feeling?

Two book launch events

Click through for the full experience (jazz funk hip hop punjabi soundtrack included) of the invitation to the launch party of The Dragonfly Effect by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith, and for the presentation of Regole (Rules) by Roger Abravanel and Luca D’Agnese.

But even from the snapshots below, I guess you can tell that Stanford University in California and Bocconi University in Milano, Italy have two very different styles in inviting people to talk about books.