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A Mapper in the Spotlight: Dave Swarthout (USA/Thailand)

Posted by escada on 19 November 2015 in English (English)

Who are you?

Dave Swarthout

I might start by saying that at age 72 I have a very nice life, especially now that I'm retired. I'm an American who lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for about 8 months of the year with the reminder spent in the United States. I met a fine Thai woman named Nut during my first visit and we've been together ever since. I have children and grandchildren living on both the east and west coasts of the U.S, in North Carolina and Oregon, while the rest of my immediate family is in New York State. I spend summers in the little town of Homer, Alaska, where I moved in 1983. I dearly love tennis and often play three of four times per week. In fact, it was my love of tennis that motivated me to exchange Alaska's cold, dark, and notoriously long winters for the warmer climate of Thailand five years ago. I have many friends there and Alaska is a fantastic place to be in the summer so I simply cannot leave it behind permanently. That's also why I settled on AlaskaDave as my OSM nickname. I was trained as a chemist and got a BS degree back in 1971 but I became disenchanted with the corporate world and left it behind in 1975. Since then I've been a carpenter, school teacher, bread baker, radio announcer, computer programmer, web designer, librarian, and commercial fishing broker. During the summer I continue to work at a business I helped start and whose website I designed, Alaska Boats & Permits, Inc., a commercial fishing brokerage. The website is simple by today's standards but it has served us well for many years and continues to do so:

I have been a map lover, a cartographophile, for my entire life. During the years before personal computers became common I bought many of the gorgeous topgraphical maps printed by the U.S Geological Survey and feasted visually on them for places to visit, trails to hike, and places to go hunting. These maps, especially the shaded relief ones, are beautiful and quite artistic to my eye. When Google Earth hit the streets I was literally dumbfounded. I spent countless hours gazing at the stunning aerial imagery of places I had visited, places I loved: the Adirondack Mountains in New York, Cape Cod in Massachusetts, Baxter Park (Maine), and of course, my beloved Alaska. Google made it possible to contribute data to improve those maps and I did that for a while. But the process was slow and there was no way to get a map for your own use from Google, for example, to put onto a GPS device. There still isn't. Consequently, for many years making my own maps in any way, shape or form seemed quite out of reach. OSM changed all that.

How Did AlaskaDave Contribute

When and how did you discover OpenStreetMap ?

After I retired from my brokerage job in 2009 I began to travel extensively and wanted Garmin maps for the countries I planned to visit. Since acquiring my first GPS, a Garmin eTrex in 2005, I've recorded traces of every hike, bicycle ride, and automobile trip I made and wanted to have good routable GPS maps for Thailand, Cambodia and Laos where I traveled by motorcycle. However, I couldn't justify paying $100 USD to Garmin for each of them so I began to look around the Internet for alternatives. I discovered the "Free maps for Garmin brand GPS devices" site at and was very impressed with the OSM-derived maps of Thailand available there.

After using those maps for a couple of years I discovered the OpenStreetMap site and learned that a person could upload GPS tracks and from them create highways which could then be added to the OSM database. My first addition to OSM was a GPS track of 208 points on October 6, 2012. Using it I traced a series of connected roads I had ridden on my motorcycle that follow the west shore of Lake Phayao, roads that had not been present on any map before my ride. When I downloaded a new version of the Thailand map a week later, there it was; "my road" was on it. From that point I was hooked.

What do you map ?

Given the level of detail lacking in parts of my places of interest, I wish I could map everything. Time constraints prevent me from doing as thorough a job as I would if I had only a single area to deal with but I live in two countries (Alaska is as big as many countries), both of which need tons of work. At first I mapped only the easier stuff because both Thailand and Alaska have many areas that are practically empty of OSM objects; I concentrated on the basics, adding and aligning highways and residential streets, and POIs. Lakes and rivers, wood polygons and other natural features I began adding as I gained experience and when I had extra time. Now that I have more skill I tackle multipolygons when I must and spend a lot more time adding landuse and other structures like riverbanks and lakes with islands.

I recently learned how to compile my own Garmin maps using the open source Java program mkgmap and that has radically changed what I map. There is a general rule in OSM that you should not map for the renderer. That make sense, especially once you understand that OSM data should be kept as general as possible because OSM is actually a database, not a map. End users, that is, renderers, can decide what to render and how it should look. But let's face it, most of us want to see the things we add to OSM on a map, somewhere, somehow, and that influences what we map. For example, I designed custom icons for my Garmin Montana GPS for several types of towers including power towers and water towers. Now that I can see them I find myself mapping them much more than before.

One of my favorite things to map here in Thailand are milestones. I don't think the U.S. has many of these anymore but Thailand has thousands. Many Thai highways have a painted concrete milestone every kilometer. I don't map all of these of course but the special ones at the beginning of a highway, the Kilometer Zero milestones, are very interesting. I developed a special icon and corresponding style rule that displays the route ref alongside of it on my Garmin. I love seeing those as I cruise the countryside because I can be almost certain I was the one who mapped it. So far I've added 231 of them. You can see a few of them in the screenshot from Garmin Basecamp I've included (below).

How do you map ?

I do both surveys and armchair mapping. Here in Thailand I drive a motorcycle equipped with my Garmin Montana GPS set to record points at the smallest interval possible, about 1 per meter. I have a small Canon digital camera hanging from a neck strap to record POIs, street names, etc., which I will correlate with the GPS track in JOSM using the photo_geotagging plug in. After I get back home I analyse the photos to get whatever information they contain. This info I add and upload, along with the track points, to OSM. On a typical day trip I might drive 100-200 km, record a track having 6-10K points and shoot 100-200 photos.

I have several OSM related apps for my iPhone but find them too limited for extensive mapping. I will ocassionally add a POI using GoMap!! but being used to the power of JOSM I edit it later to flesh out the details. I have developed some presets for JOSM that are tremendous timesavers. They make entering data easy, fast and almost as importantly, consistent. The presets display the tags I've determined to be important and insure I don't forget any when tagging similar objects at a later date.

Vending Fuel Preset

Working in Thailand means names of places entered in the name=* tag must be in Thai script. I use Autohotkey to make entering common phrases and provincial highway number prefixes in Thai characters painless and error free. I also rely on several dictionaries and online resources to help with that. The superb Thai–English English–Thai Talking Dictionary by Benjawan Poomsan Becker and Chris Pirazzi is invaluable and something I use constantly. I also add a "name:en" tag containing the English translation of objects whenever possible.

Where do you map ?

The places I most enjoy mapping are the places I live, Alaska and Thailand. Both have huge areas that are lacking the most basic things so I spend most of my time mapping roads and natural features both as an armchair mapper and through field surveys. Alaska is a vast state but there are virtually no OSMers there. That means I have plenty of opportunities to make a huge difference in the current state of the Alaska OSM. Let me give you some more background; Alaska is a huge area with a population of only 600,000, half of whom live in its biggest city, Anchorage, so it's virtually devoid of man made features. Wikipedia tells us Alaska has about 3 million natural lakes. Only 3200 of them have a name and most of those are not yet visible in OSM because nobody's taken the time to trace them. Alaska has thousands of mountains, glaciers, rivers, streams and literally countless small ponds, most of which are also unnamed, not to mention roads and byways that aren't in OSM. Mapping Alaska completely will require a prodigious effort. When I read about people in Europe or the UK trying to formulate tagging for small features like allotments or indoor toilets I sometimes laugh. Obviously the places they work and live are mapped in fairly fine detail already.

Thailand too has many unmapped areas. That said, there is a core group of 6 or 8 people (including myself) who have done a terrific job of mapping most of northern Thailand, the area surrounding Chiang Mai. However, the eastern portion, Issan, and the provinces west and south of Bangkok need a lot of attention. Bing imagery wasn't available for much of Issan until only recently so now folks are working diligently to get the basic roads and water features added.

I map wherever I go because it's become an obsession. I have relatives in New York State, North Carolina, and Oregon so I do surveys by car and add data to OSM when I'm visiting. I spent a week in Istanbul last spring and had promised myself a vacation from OSM but after I started walking around using my GPS to guide me to the Blue Mosque and other POIs, I noticed so many errors I felt compelled to make edits and additions. Because I was walking, I worked on adding footways and other details to OSM for the multi-level Galata Bridge over the Golden Horn.

What is your biggest achievement as mapper?

I can't point to any specific thing in that department. I have added a lot of information, including almost 400 GPS traces, and performed over 7,000 edits in the three years since my first contribution. I've added data in Alaska, Thailand, Fiji, North Carolina, New York State, Oregon, Istanbul, Poland and even edited portions of the Danube Bike Path in Austria, a resource that has a multitude of mappers living in close proximity to it. As for personal achievements, learning to make my own Garmin maps has been very rewarding and is a huge help when I'm mapping a new area. I drive to a destination and collect data as I go. When I have a chance I upload that data to OSM and immediately make a new, revised map that I can use on the return trip. Being able to see the new map data right away instead of having to wait a week to get it from the site means I can see my recent additions, so I don't waste time gathering the same data again, and helps me catch anything I may have missed on my first pass.

I compile my own maps using OSM data, the Java program mkgmap along with styles and icons I've developed over the past year or so. At first it was hard to understand how the various pieces fit together, TYP files, the style rules, and how they affect the OSM data. At this point I have enough experience to put these components together to create maps that are both pleasing to my eye and useful in practice. I continue tweaking those components to suit my needs better; it's a work in progress. There's a wealth of information about how to build Garmin compatible maps on the Internet but it's very disorganized and hard to follow. I plan to write a more comprehensive step-by-step guide and put it in my blog, I'm Outta Here, and my OSM Diary when time permits.

Garmin Basecamp screenshot -
located at N18.54171° E98.94377°

Why do you map ? What motivates you ?

I map mainly because I love maps and always have. Contributing to an open source map of the world is wonderful stuff and plays well to my talents and disposition. There is also a part of me that feels making a map is a contribution to our culture and to a sense of place that many of us lack because we no longer reside in the neighborhoods we lived in as a child; I am certainly one of those. We are truly citizens of the world and mapping the places we live in makes them more familiar, more like home.

In a sense, I've become addicted to mapping. I live far away from family and most of my friends and I'm retired so I have a lot of free time. The desire to make OSM better gives my days meaning and motivates me to get outdoors to see what's there and what needs to be added. Sometimes I wish it wasn't so addictive. I used to write a blog, fool around with photography and Photoshop, maintain a journal, study the Thai language. Nowadays, almost all I do is map!

What is the most difficult part of mapping ?

I find the process of developing consensus about tagging issues to be difficult. OSM is a world database and people living in Japan or Africa, New Zealand or Brazil, not to mention Thailand, have different ways of mapping, different prespectives about what's important, use different spellings, and have different ideas about how to go about things. The discussions in the tagging group, for instance, loop endlessly and seem almost never to produce a useful result. And then if you do find consensus, editing the OSM Wiki to reflect that result is a far greater challenge IMO. I hate the Wiki even though I am forced to use it daily. But editing it? No thanks. And I say that as a person who was able to learn and use assembly language to write operating system software in my younger days. Plus, in my role as a librarian I came to understand why such things as standardized subject headings and standardized numerical classifications are so important. You don't want one library to use as a subject heading U.S. Civil War while another uses the proper one, Civil War (U.S., 1861-1865). By comparison OSM is a chaos of tags that purport to describe the exact same thing because people are free to make new tags whenever they want. Having that freedom is nice but the resultant database is messy to say the least. It's difficult to pick the correct tag every time. I've sometimes gone back and edited tags on objects I added to reflect changes in my viewpoint or that of the tagging community.

What are your mapping plans for the near future?

I have decided to map some of the big trees that line the Chiang Mai-Lamphun road near where I live. These stately trees, Thais call them "yang na" (Dipterocarpus alatus), have an interesting history. They were planted by order of King Rama V back in 1882 when the highway was only an oxcart path but are now endangered by their close proximity to vehicular traffic. I plan to make custom GPS icon for them so I can see them on my Garmin unit. I'll tag them using another JOSM preset I developed that allows me to quickly enter height, trunk circumference, and crown diameter, along with the species and common names in both English and Thai. I'll use icons with different sizes to represent other common shade trees in Thailand that have large crowns, the majestic Chamcha or rain tree, teak, etc.

Do you have contact with other mappers ?

Yes. There are 5 or 6 active local OSMers here in Chiang Mai that get together socially a couple of times a year. There is a section of the Wiki devoted to Thai related issues where we discuss mapping projects, problems, errors, etc. Of course, we exchange emails, do tutoring, whatever, to further our mapping goals.

Do you use OpenStreetMap yourself ? How ?

I use it constantly. I travel all over Thailand during the winters and to other places on occasion and would be quite literally lost without my GPS. Even in the U.S. where high quality English language maps are readily available I use my GPS all the time. My kids live in cities on both sides of the continent and I'm not familiar with either area enough to get around without some sort of help. My home grown routable OSM/Garmin maps reliably guide me.

Do you do anything else than mapping that is related to OpenStreetMap?

Not really. I participate in the tagging discussion group and try to contribute answers and insight to the questions that pop up in the OSM Help list but I try to avoid getting caught up in long winded discussions that go round and round.

To conclude, is there anything else you want to mention ?

I wish more people would get involved mapping their own neighborhoods and haunts. The best, most accurate OSM data exists in the places OSM members are active. I've tried to interest friends and family from time to time but their eyes usually glaze over after a few minutes. I reckon mapping isn't for everybody.

Thanks a lot for this interview, Dave.

The list with previous interviews can be found on the wiki.

A Mapper in the Spotlight: Dave Corley (Ireland)

Posted by escada on 4 November 2015 in English (English)

I first saw DaCor's avatar on the help-site, where he gave friendly and detailed answers. Later on, I saw him doing the same on the Irish mailing list. After seeing Jo Walsh's presentation (video) in which he is mentioned at the end, I knew I would love to interview him.

Dave Corley

Who are you?

Hi, I’m Dave Corley, from Ireland. My day job is in Quality Engineering in the medical device sector, specifically in the field of Interventional Cardiology. It’s a role I had never planned on going into but one which I really enjoy as no 2 days are ever the same. It’s given me the chance to learn many new skills over the years from project management to problem solving to developing new processes. In a nutshell, my job is to look at problems, use data to break them down into their smallest parts to find causes and implement the simplest solutions.

I would have to say OSM is my main hobby. When I have it, it pretty much soaks up all my free time.

When/how did you discover OpenStreetMap?

I became aware of OSM back in 2011, can’t recall exactly what it was that brought it to my attention but I became more and more interested in it the more I learned. At the end of 2011 I picked up a decent smartphone with GPS and started mapping with gusto.

Very early on (in the first day or two) I was having a lot of trouble with connecting the dots (how do I collect a trace + what do I do with it + where is the info on how to do these things) and got directed to the Irish OSM chatroom where the folks there were very patient and answered every single question I had.

The biggest benefit of this was it kept me engaged at a critical time i.e. right at the beginning. If it wasn’t for the help I received those first few days I likely would have walked away out of sheer frustration.

What do you map? Is there any difference with your early days?

I will map just about anything. Same as most, I started with roads and local POI’s but then moved on to addressing in a big way. Many people knock addressing but to be honest I can’t think of a better way to survey every square inch of an area. Only through addressing have I gone down every street, walked around every corner and gone to the very last house in housing estates. Yes it can be tedious but this is a marathon, not a sprint. All I can say is do it for a few hours on a single day and you’ll be amazed at what you would otherwise never find.

Due to work commitments now, I have little free time at the moment so I find these days a lot of my mapping is centred around QA and reviewing newbie edits and notes.

How do you map? Do you make surveys? Are you an armchair mapper?

Armchair mapper”, I have always hated that term. OSM would be never more than a niche pastime for a few select geeks if it was not for imagery and people making use of that imagery en masse. That being said, I do both, I survey and I do a lot of imagery tracing.

I’m a JOSM user at heart though I do dip into iD every now and then. It depends; I use whatever will get the job done.

When it comes to surveys, the one thing I always try to do is make sure and map as much detail as possible beforehand. When I’m out surveying, I survey, I don’t map, so having all buildings, roads and other features mapped ahead of time makes data collection that much more efficient.

In terms of apps, I would use the following:

  • OSMTracker - My go-to app when driving. I use it to collect voice notes and photos mainly, but its presets are very useful.

  • KeypadMapper - Another go-to app, this time for address mapping. You can rapidly collect addresses at a walking pace

  • Mapillary - Create an open-licenced streetview of the area you are surveying. Very useful if you need to refer back to something without having to revisit the area again. This is a great one to leave running in the car when you are driving around. You'll collect thousands of images without much effort which are of benefit to everyone, not just you.

  • - Free, offline maps. Useful to have no matter what

  • Vespucci - Mobile editor, useful for doing all sorts of mapping on the go. Your edits upload direct to OSM. For the folks who prefer editing while surveying, this is the app of choice

Where do you map?

Same as most, I started local, but have done a lot on a national level too. I’ve participated in a number of HOT activations over the years.

What is your biggest achievement as mapper?

There are 2 things I am particularly proud of being involved with, the first being the Irish Townland Mapping Project and the second, #MapLesotho. Logo

Back in Oct 2014, when I was out of work for an extended period with a back injury, I decided to get involved in an ongoing project among the Irish OSM community where we were rectifying out of copyright maps and using them to trace townland boundaries. A townland is the smallest admin boundary in Ireland and they date back nearly 1,000 years. They are the base boundary for all others in Ireland, admin, historical or otherwise.

The process, from start to finish to add just a single boundary goes something like this Identify the correct map sheet

  1. Crop it

  2. Rectify it

  3. Using JOSM Presets & Styles….

  4. Create the boundary

In addition, everything to do with this process used multiple tools and websites, each of which served a specific purpose. All in all it is an insanely convoluted process but there is no other way to do it as this data is locked up tight under government licence (but that is hopefully changing soon).

I started mapping them but then decided to create a wiki page, workflow and series of videos on the whole process as much for myself as anyone else. I knew if I went away and came back I’d forget steps of the process but I hoped it would encourage others to take part in the process too but I wasn’t too hopeful.

Townland mapping progress

Everything was released in Sep/Oct 2014 and there was a massive (by Irish OSM levels) increase in the volume of people mapping and townlands being added almost straight away and it has continued to this day. I’ve included a few graphs below to give an indication. Townland New Mappers

There are over 60,000 townlands to be mapped, but we are well on the way to finishing all boundaries by summer 2016 which is a heck of a lot better than the original when we were on track to finish in 2025. Townland Mapped vs. Target

Back in March 2014 I got involved (through a twitter conversation) with a Fingal County Council initiative that came about after a MOU was signed to assist with infrastructure and urban planning activities in Lesotho. From this, grew #MapLesotho, a collaborative effort to provide a definitive map of Lesotho. MapLesotho Logo

By utilising the HOT tasking Manager and using international mapathons, Irish schools and locals on the ground, we’ve taken it from 50,000 nodes of data to over 7 million. Support has come from many sectors most notably from the private sector in the form of a recent competition sponsored by Mapillary which drove a huge amount of mapping from locals.

Giving JOSM training in Lesotho

The progress of #MapLesotho has been mindblowing to say the least and really has been a fantastic team effort. I was lucky enough to go there in Feb 2015 for 2 weeks training local government planners how to use JOSM and other tools. We were lucky to have one of those techy/data guru guys in Colin Broderick ( who gave indepth training on QGIS and other tools and Ciaran Staunton ( who put the 2 weeks together and has been both the glue holding it all together and the engine driving it on. Soren Johannessen ( has been great too, posting weekly progress updates on #MapLesotho since June 2014.

OpenStreetMap Lesotho

We’re all off there again in Feb 2016 where the training will move from “get the basemap done” to QA and developing the base map.

Why do you map? What motivates you?

Simply put, I like data and OSM gives me lots of it to play with.

Do you have contact with other mappers?

The Irish OSM gang are a great group of folks. We’ve had a couple of meetups though not as many as we should and we’re fairly active in IRC, Facebook, Twitter etc.

Do you use OpenStreetMap yourself? How?

Whenever I go anywhere new I always have something like OsmAnd running as much for QA (see if there’s any turn restrictions etc missing) as out of pride. I love that the little map being displayed was made by a load of people I know personally.

Do you do anything else than mapping that is related to OpenStreetMap?

I’m as active as I can be in the Irish Open Data / Open Government scene and we’ve had collaborative sessions with Open Knowledge Ireland on trying to utilise health data released by the Irish government……there’s a long way to go in Ireland in the Open Data field but I’m hugely optimistic for where this is going.

Over the last 2 years I’ve been into colleges and schools teaching people how to map or use OSM for various purposes.

Teaching in schools and colleges

Thanks a lot for this interesting interview. It is really appreciated that you took the time , although you were very busy the past few weeks.

A Mapper in the Spotlight: Clifford Snow

Posted by escada on 29 October 2015 in English (English)

We have been interviewing Belgian mappers for a year now. Since I still like the concept, I want to extend it outside our little Belgian community. Therefore I will contact mappers from all over the world. I have compiled a list of some 30 names now of people that I met on different mailing lists and fora. From time to time I will contact one, and ask her or him to answer a few questions. The focus will be on individual mappers, unlike the very interesting interviews conducted by OpenCage, that focus more on developers and country profiles.

We start with Clifford Snow. I met him on the talk-us mailing list and we exchanged a few ideas about a presentation on OSM earlier this year.

Clifford Snow

Who are you ?

I map as Glassman. I worked in telecom operations for a number of years and even spend 10 years trying to make money blowing glass. I didn't succeed at making money but I did come away with a nice nickname and a love for glass art. I live with my wife in Mount Vernon, Skagit County, Washington State in the US. I have lived all over the US and once in Canada and Turkey. Washington State is by far the best location.

When and how did you discover OpenStreetMap ?

While I had heard about OSM, it wasn't until I attended the Bellingham WA LinuxfestNW conference that I fell in love with the project. Even when you attend a conference with a large number of tracks you occasionally find yourself with some time slots where nothing appeals to you. Since I had heard of OSM, I decided to fill the time by listening to Hurricane Coast's OSM presentation. Thanks to Hurricane, I've been having fun with OSM ever since. Four years later, I gave my first presentation at the Bellingham LinuxfestNW on the power of crowdsourcing maps using OSM. I had been editing for just a few months when driving back from the gym I noticed a street closure with signs up that said this segment of road was being made into a one-way street. I went home and made the change. That is when I became addicted to the power of OSM. Anyone can fix a problem, make a correction or add a new feature.

What do you map ? Is there any difference with your early days ?

Shortly after I started editing my first purchase was a Garmin eTrex20 handheld gps unit. I still use it today. I love to take short hikes to add trails. Just last week I spotted a new trail. It had been completed the week before. It was a short segment but by documenting it I know others will be able to take advantage of it. Early on I attempted to import some roads in Tucson from TIGER data. Not reading the import instructions resulted in a horrible mess. I probably spent more time cleaning up my mistakes than if I had done it manually. The mailing list did help me with pointers on how to correct the mistakes. That experience helped me later on with the Seattle building and address import.

How do you map ?

My favorite app is GoMap!! for iOS devices. Since I'm an android user, that means having to borrow my wife's iPad which usually comes with strings attached. When not using GoMap!!, I like pencil and paper. Just a notepad to get addresses, names, phone numbers, etc. with sketches to help remember the layout. I also like asking retail stores for a business card. That often leads to a conversation about OpenStreetMap and sometimes free treats from ice cream shops! Businesses like that you are adding them to a map, even if it's a map they have never heard of. I do like to participate in armchair map-a-thons such as Maproulette's Battlegrid or the Fix U.S. Railway Crossings, or with the newest JOSM plugin, MissingRoads. These bite size tasks are the perfect break to our daily routines.

Where do you map ?

I mostly map locally. This summer we took a month long road trip mapping along the way. We spend enough time in Northern Minnesota to map Nisswa, MN. It is a small town that lives off tourists. Shop owners were excited about getting their business listed. When introducing new people to OSM we start by having them map something in their local neighborhood, then we talk about the area we are mapping which ranges from nearby cities to HOT tasks.

What is your biggest achievement as mapper ?

Probably being part of the team that imported Seattle's buildings and addresses. We took on Steve Coast's call to add addresses to OSM. Locally we concluded that manually adding of addresses is too boring. No one was excited about walking streets to collect addresses. With the King County and the City of Seattle's open data, we were able to not only import all of the buildings and addresses but we helped build a stronger local OSM community. With Jeff Meyer, a devoted group of local open source GIS enthusiasts from, and local OSM mappers we completed the task of adding every building and address. Not only that but we gave back address corrections to the county. (Which they still haven't fixed. Paul I'm talking to you.)

Why do yo map ? What motivates you ?

OSM is very empowering. One of our greatest strengths is the ease that you can tackle a problem without having to get "permission." If power lines are missing, you can add them. Can't find handicap parking, add them. Looking for hiking trails, just add them. Opportunities are not just local. If you want to get involved in communications, fund raising, etc. you just have to jump in.

Do you have contact with other mappers ?

Chase Stephens and I host the Seattle OSM Meetup Group. We have over 400 people signed up for our meetups. Each month we try to hold a meetup in different parts of Seattle. Last year we held a Meetup for OSM's 10th Anniversary in Seattle with presentations and a kite aerial mapping demonstration. We are constantly trying to find ways to find new mappers.

Do you use OpenStreetMap yourself ?

Right now I'm trying to learn how to build map tiles to show my communities sidewalks. Every sidewalk and every crosswalk has been inventoried, now I'm looking to tell the story of how walkable my city is through maps. Using elevation data and OSM data, I hope to show the city where sidewalks are in abundance and where they are needed.

Do you do anything else than mapping that is related to OpenStreetMap ?

I am active in CUGOS, an active open source GIS community that meets monthly in Seattle and a QGIS local user group that we started this summer. At a typical CUGOS meeting, people talk about their projects and how they use open source software to solve their problems. We also talk about drones. We've even flown a large drone in a small meeting room.

To conclude, is there anything else you want to mention ?

One of the struggles facing OSM is the lack of gender diversity. We are experiencing the same problem on a local level. Our Meetup group attracts women, but not to our mapping parties. What we should be doing differently to attract and retain more women? I think we could start by getting to know our new users better. I'd like to see OSM start surveying members to try help us learn how to attract and retain new members.

Thanks a lot for this interview, Clifford.

Belgian Mapper of the Month: Olivier Roussel

Posted by escada on 29 October 2015 in English (English)

Olivier Roussel, or Dagou on OpenStreetMap, is originally from Brussels, but lives for the moment in Arlon. He got a PhD in chemistry and works in a research and developement lab of a private company in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. OpenStreetMap is really a hobby for him.

When and where did you discover OpenStreetMap ?

When I was writing my PhD thesis in 2006, I was using LaTeX, which is an open source programme for desktop publishing. Later on, I moved on to GNU/Linux, after that I started to use Wikipedia and finally I started to use OpenStreetMap. But all of this, without contributing back. I only started to contribute to OpenStreetMap in 2013, when I started to travel to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. In order to get to my job, I first took the train, followed by a bike ride to the industrial area. One of the roads in this area is reserved to public transport, cyclist and pedestrians. There was a S-shaped barrier, which could only be opened by the bus driver. When I drove by on my bike, I noticed numerous cars and trucks that had to make U-turn at the barrier, even when the "dead-end" was announced at the beginning of the street. People were blindly following their navigation system, which ignored or did not know about the barrier. OpenStreetMap had the same problem, and that is why I decided to become contributor: the small modification I had to make to prevent people from making a U-turn in front of a barrier. From then on, I learned more and more about the different tags and contribute more and more.

Are you using OpenStreetMap yourself ?

I do not have a car with a built-in a navigation system, so I use OsmAnd+ on my mobile phone or tablet. Furthermore I regularly look at the map on I use it rarely for my job. I only have to travel two or three times for work, and often to the same places. So I use OsmAnd more often for my vacations.

What type of mapper are you and where do you map?

I am a mapper that prefers to map what I have seen with my own eyes. And often, this are small details such as mailboxes, fire hydrants, benches, picnic tables, etc. but I also map buildings. In order to precisely map my observations, I use aerial images as well as GPS traces that I made with my mobile. The latter often requires multiple traces to obtain a good enough precision. I mainly work in both Luxembourgs (the Grand Duchy and the Belgian province). Furthermore I contribute in the part of the Auvergne where my family comes from, and where I spend several vacations. Finally I mapped a bit in Brussels and the places where I spend my holidays. But all of my contributions start by noticing a difference between the reality and the data in OpenStreetMap.

What is you biggest achievement as a contributor?

I certainly arrived a little late to OpenStreetMap to have made large achievements. The most important parts are already mapped. However, just like rivers are made from small streams, that my modest contributions, contribute to the big achievement, called OpenStreetMap.

Do you have ideas to grow the community?

I believe that a good contributor is a contributor that is motivated to make the map as correct as possible. Hence, the more OpenStreetMap is know, the more motivated people there will be that make corrections for mistakes they notice in their neighborhood. Thus to grow the community, we need more people visiting the OpenStreetMap-website. To accomplish this, we most likely need more visibility in the media.

What is the greatest strength of OpenStreetMap?

The greatest strength of OpenStreetMap is the network of contributors: each change is almost immediately noticed by someone that will make the change in the database. OpenStreetMap was very reactive when the pedestrian area in Brussels was enlarged, more reactive than the traditional mapping services. That really showed the strength of OpenStreetMap: the reaction upon changes of the real world.

What is the greatest challenge for OpenStreetMap?

For me, the biggest challenge for OpenStreetMap is trying to satisfy the needs of all contributors, from those wanting very precise data to those that only want general information. Another problem is to answer all the special needs without making the map reading too difficult. Therefore, there are several different ways to interpret the data: data for car drivers, cyclists, boat users, hikers, skiers, wheelchair users, etc. We need to find a way to help every visitor to find the right map for her needs, because, otherwise, she might never come back.

Do you have contact with other mappers?

I am not very social on the web, so I do not have a regular contact with other mappers. But, I do contact them in case I want to discuss a particular contribution.

To conclude, is there anything else that you want to share?

In case you have read this and still hesitate to contribute, please do not hesitate anymore: it is very rewarding to see the map, which is visible by the whole world, being updated by your own modifications. Do not forget to refresh the page in your browser though :-)

Mapillary announced Panorama dragging

Posted by escada on 2 October 2015 in English (English)

Mapillary announced improved navigation through the photos in their on line viewer.

I can now click and hold the picture in and see this side of the building !

Mapillary UI

Unfortunately, it goes wrong on this sequence:

Belgian Mapper of the Month: Vincent Van Eyken (QuercE)

Posted by escada on 13 September 2015 in English (English)

Vincent Van Eyken recently got his civil engineering degree, specialism architecture. With this background, it is not surprising that he has an healthy interest in topics such as urban planning and public space landscaping. But he also has a long lasting and strong passion for geography and cartography. Therefore it is almost natural that he ended up in the OpenStreetMap world. He maps under the nickname QuercE, which is derived from the Latin translation of his family name; ‘quercus’ (adj. ‘querceus’) is latin for ‘eik(en) / eyken’. Eik is the Dutch word for oak.


When did you start contributing ?

A couple of years ago I was member of another collaborative mapping project, called Wikimapia. I decided to leave that project, among others due to the limited support, the small applicability of the project, the mapping experience and the frequent vandalism of the map. While I was surfing on the internet I accidently encountered At the first stance, the project looked promising, accessible, well documented and with a decent map. Furthermore the map was evolving quickly, due to the growing group of users. After I created an account, which I did out of curiosity, it took a while before I really started to map. But after a few timid attempts, I got hooked, and now I regularly contribute something to the map. Also, because I started to see the potential of such an open data project as basis for a huge range of applications.

How and what do you map?

I started mapping with the online-editor Potlatch 2. But after awhile, I encountered its limitations to quickly map complex features. That was the moment I made the switch to JOSM. That editor might have a steep learning curve, but once you master it, it offers a wide range of possibilities: preparation and saving changesets, plug-ins, presets, using layers and filters, aligning images, etc. Of course, those features makes mapping more versatile and challenging. My first contributions were mainly points-of-interests and additions to the roads in my home town and the surrounding area. Even today, the majority of my contributions are small additions or changes in the wider environment around my house. Only sporadically, I map something further away, usually from a holiday destination. Often these are small features, something I noticed by chance, sometimes inspired by articles in the news, just something that gives me the reflex to check whether it is already in OpenStreetMap, and if not, whether I can map it myself. The things that I map in this way are a.o corrections to streets and their names, adding local retailers with opening hours, lanes and parking lanes, cycleways and cycling routes, path ("trage wegen" in Dutch). To summarise: all kinds of things. I try to alternate in what I map, just to keep it interesting, but also to improve my mapping skills. I am certainly not a specialist in a certain domain or technique. Although I try to keep on top of as many topics as possible. Unfortunately, I lack some discipline to properly prepare for a focussed survey, execute it conscientiously and process the accumulated data afterwards. So I soon turned more into an "armchair mapper". Especially, because most of the time, I start mapping in a flush, whenever I have time and when I am in the mood. During my studies, I used OpenStreetMap often as a distraction and a more or less useful form of procrastination. One of the fields I am working on during those mapping sessions, are the boundaries of the villages. For this, I use old digitalised maps such as Atlas der Buurtwegen, or the plans of villages by Popp. Due to the nature of the job, it has to be done from behind a PC.

Do you use OpenStreetMap yourself?

In the past I have used MapOSMatic a couple of times to quickly obtain a detailed map for a city trip. At this moment, I try to use the OsmAnd-navigation app on my SmartPhone as much as possible. I also succeeded in convincing some friends to use the app, especially for cycling and hiking trip. So, indirectly I convinced them of the use of OpenStreetMap. During skiing vacations I use a Teasi One² gps device with OpenStreetMap maps to plan trips and register the ski slopes.

How do you stay up-to-date with OpenStreetMap news?

I mainly use talk-be-mailinglijst to stay informed on what is happening in the in my community, but I have to admit that I am just lurking most of the time. I would like to mention that I learned a lot by searching the archive of the mailing list. This archive is full of relevant and specific information for any mapper that wants to map features in Belgium.

Do you have contact with other mappers?

When I just started, I got useful tips from a number of people on what and how to map. That changed over time and now I can sporadically give a tip to another mappers. But it is a comforting idea that you can build upon the work of a strong community of enthusiast people. So far I did not had to opportunity to participate in a meet-up or mapping party, but I hope to go to one in the future. It seems like a good method to improve my skills and of course, to get to know the other mappers.

How can we grow the OpenStreetMap Community?

I believe that the average person is not familiar enough with the name OpenStreetMap. We do not need to start large advertising campaigns, but it would be great that the data of OpenStreetMap is equally known and consulted (in any form) as often as e.g. the pages of Wikipedia. The OpenStreetMap data can already be found in several websites, in apps etc.. Sometimes is it obvious that OpenStreetMap data is used, in other cases it is more hidden. This gives the average end user a scattered view of what OpenStreetMap is and does not properly show its capabilities. Of course there are several more user-friendly and interactive applications (,, the OsmAnd-app…) that give a clear way to access certain data, but too often they can only be found after some research. Research that not everybody is willing to do. Therefore I think the community should keep on focusing on improving the accessibility of the data, first and foremost via the map on the main page of The possibility to retrieve route descriptions from this page is already a huge benefit. But it would be interesting to be able to click on POIs and obtain a pop-up with more details. This feature could be something that attracts more user and mappers. In order to improve the local mapping community, it might be an idea to contact the local societies and clubs (such as Chiro, Scout groups, Davidsfonds, Okra, etc.). Perhaps we find some potential mappers, that would be willing to map their cycling and hiking trips or even just map the environment of their clubhouse in detail.

Why do you map?

In the first place, it is a fantastic way to turn one's fascination for geography into a hobby. Furthermore, the idea that the things that you map, -- no matter how small or irrelevant they may seem--, will be used by others (cyclist, skiers, hikers, students, researchers) in an infinite number of possible projects, gives some satisfaction and is certainly a stimulus to continue mapping. Since we live in a world where the value of information keep growing, it is good to see that there are several open source projects, such as OpenStreetMap, under development to make this, often crucial, data available to a large public.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

I would only like to give the advice to keep on mapping with a lot of enthusiasm. Or in case you are not mapping yet, to start with it. This will not always be easy and you might have to invest some time in learning new things, but it certainly worth the effort.

After Holiday Fun

Posted by escada on 31 August 2015 in English (English)

I had some after-holiday-fun adding the details for the Ehrenmal in Oberschönau, Thüringa.


The map

Kate helping out during the survey

Location: Unterer Möstweg, Oberschönau, Haselgrund, Landkreis Schmalkalden-Meiningen, Thuringia, 98587, Germany

Belgian Mapper of the Month : Matthieu Gaillet

Posted by escada on 10 August 2015 in English (English)

Matthieu Gaillet is a technical electrician and is now responsible for the technical aspects in a cultural center. His motivation to map comes from his passion for collaboration in map making and his intensive use of maps for cycling and hiking trips.

Matthieu Gaillet

Where and when did you discover OpenStreetMap ?

Just like everybody else probably: by accident, in 2010 :-) I immediately liked the concept of a map created by collaboration. But at that moment I was not completely convinced that the project would become popular and accepted enough to compete with Google maps. Since then I started using open source based servers and software and the virus got me. It was not before 2013 that I started using OpenStreetMap and my first contributions with JOSM are also from that time.

Do you use OpenStreetMap yourself ?

I use it both privately and professionally, mainly since the arrival of Mapbox, umap, etc, since it is now possible to personalize maps.

Which type of mapper are you ?

I use my own GPS-traces and I have the habit to map a couple of hours after returning from a trip. Since I use OpenStreetMap-based maps, I tend to leave my planned route to do some improvised surveying and have the intense pleasure of adding a missing trail to the map. I am also an armchair mapper and base myself on information published by third parties. Because of this, I sometimes act as an improvised open data evangelist when public services are deciding whether or not they should release their data. My favorite areas correspond to my interests and places I go. Thus I have "committed" a lot of changes along the Eurovelo 6 cycle route that passes through Europe, all the way from Germany to the Black Sea (Romania).

What do you map ?

I concentrate mostly on footpaths and cycling facilities.

What is your biggest achievement as mapper ?

That would be relation 4128428. It represents the large cycle network “La Wallonie Picarde à Vélo”, which is put into place and published by SPF Wallonie, more specifically the intermunicipal IDETA. It contains 687 nodes and 914 routes. I started working on the network in mid 2014, after getting a written authorization from the IDETA. Little by little, evening after evening, I did about 75% of the network. And then IDETA came back to me and asked me to sign a document completely incompatible with the Openstreetmap ODbL license.

So I became an open source evangelist. Until now without much success, but I'm stubborn :-) Meanwhile, I obviously had to stop my work on the dataset, which had already cost me an enormous amount of labour time.

Mapping the network also forced me to master JOSM, which is not to be taken lightly. To be frank, I hate JOSM as much as I love its power. It is not user friendly enough, performance isn't great, user interface looks a bit early nineties. But for advanced mapping task, there is no alternative - and it does the job rather well.

Another nice moment was when the city of Brussels completely changed the traffic plan in the city center. A whole area became pedestrian and a parking route was introduced, which affected quite a number of streets. I prepared the changeset a couple of days in advance. I was planning to update the map on the very second at midnight when the change came in effect, but other mappers advised me to do it a few days in advance, to avoid having to resolve too many conflicts in the map. So we can surely say that OSM really was the very first map to be up to date :-)

Why do you map ? What motivates you ?

Out of passion, and because I find it extremely rewarding that many users can freely use the results of a hobby. I am thinking of hikers that come from the other side of the world who can plan their trip on a path that I have mapped. I really like the utopian and universal aspects of this type of projects.

Do you do other things besides mapping ?

Occasionally, I update the wiki. I also help other users that I encountered in the course of my virtual wanderings to map more complex things. I intend to organize a survey party of Brussels cycling facilities.

Do you have ideas to grow the OpenStreetMap community, to motivate more people to start mapping ? could do with a better user interface. At the moment, I don't feel that it does justice to the quality of the data behind it. iD is a great tool, that only needs to keep widening its scope.

What is the largest feature of OpenStreetMap?

Being universal, and being able to adapt to the needs of mappers.

What is the biggest challenge for OpenStreetMap?

Becoming indispensable, and much more visible by having its data integrated in more external party's apps.

How do you keep up-to-date on OpenStreetMap news ?

The mailing list and the virtual newspaper weekly OSM, which I discovered via the mailing list.

Do you have contact with other mappers?

Of course ! Especially with Polyglot, who I consider my mentor as he makes it a point of honor to share his knowledge particularly in terms of public transport networks..

To conclude, is there anything else you want to share?

As is often the case with open source, different clans clash, thereby losing a lot of time. I think for example that the teams behind iD and JOSM should try to join forces: there is a lot of redundancy. That is a pity. On the (Belgian) mailing list, the tone is not always pleasant. A moderator should intervene when things get out of hand. But lately it has calmed down :-)

Belgian Mapper of the Month: Escada

Posted by escada on 5 July 2015 in English (English)

Since some members of the Mapper of the month team have been on holiday and the people we contacted for an interview prefered to stay anonymous, we have to use this backup scenario of an interview of Escada. Nevertheless, we hope you enjoy reading it. The French and Dutch translation will be available later this week on

Marc Gemis is a 48 year old software engineer for a multi-national in Mortsel. His largest passion are his dogs, which he walks every day. His nickname, escada is the name of one of his dogs.

When did you discover OpenStreetMap?

Marc and his dogs during a survey I have always walked a lot with the dogs. Until 2011 this were often the same walks, or walks that are described in the Lannoo-guides. We did not walk every weekend or evening because I also trained for and participated in agility-trails. Unfortunately my competition dog got injured and I had to stop with the sport. This meant that I would have more time for walks. Since I wanted to discover more of Belgium, I bought an outdoor GPS-device.

The idea was to download trails from and follow those. From the moment that I found out that a good map for walking costed as much as the device, I started looking for cheaper alternatives. That's I how I arrived at The map that was available via that site, seemed sufficient for my purposes.

Soon after installing the map on the device, I noticed that several smaller paths and tracks were missing in my home town. I subscribed to the Belgian maling list to learn how I could add those missing pieces. I got plenty of advice and one user, Polyglot also showed me which other data was missing and how that could be added. At that moment, he mainly talked about house numbers and bus stops.

Do you use OpenStreetMap yourself ?

From the above, you can deduce that I use OpenStreetMap on my Garmin-device, from the moment I discovered it. Furthermore, I will always use when I want to let my friends know about the start position of a walk. From time to time I use Grapphopper]( or OSRM, to find out beforehand how long a trip will take. Both routing engines are now also available on the website.

Recently, I bought my first smartphone. The main reason was to allow me to start using OsmAnd for car navigation. During our hollidays I also used it as a guide in some towns.

How do you map ?

As said in the introduction, I take the dogs out for a daily walk. This means that almost every day I find something new to map. The evening walks are usually close to home, while I make little trips all over Belgium during the weekend. Most of those trips are planned so I will discover a new part of some walking network. A walking network is layed out by the tourist office and allows each individual to create her own walk using short routes between numbered nodes. Those networks are one of the things I map.

The evening walks are totally different. Some of those walks were along calm paths, because the dogs enjoy them so much, while others were typical survey walks. That mean walking up and down each street and writing down information, mainly house numbers. I have collected several thousand house numbers that way. Since the Flemish house numbers can now be imported, I do not do this type of walks as much as before.

Because I keep learning about new stuff that can be mapped, even a walk that I have done several times before can expose new data. I also started to photograph those streets for Mapillary. Although that is not always easy, especially with 4 dogs on a lead and when the sun is going under.

Which Tools do you use ?

From the first day on, I use a GPS-device to collect waypoints with information that I want to map later on. This works well for short texts, such as house numbers or objects that one meets frequently such as benches or garbage cans. I developed a whole "new" language based on abbreviations for this purpose.

Since a year or so, I take more pictures and rely less on waypoints. After all the relative position of objects is easier to see on photos. Furthermore, photos might contain details that you have missed while you were there. I take most pictures with a reflex camera. Sometimes, I try to use the smartphone as well. But in the end the GPS device and the camera are handier, since you can hang them around your neck and they are operated easily with one hand. I need the other hand to hold the leads of the dogs. I always upload the pictures to my smugmug-website, as an archive.

I immediately started mapping with JOSM for the improvement of the data. I have used the online editors, but they do not fulfil my needs. iD came in handy when I was working on some Maproulette tasks. Level0 was useful to quickly correct some tagging mistakes I made on a number of objects. I wrote a diary entry about that a while ago.

I have been working on correcting errors detected by Osmose and KeepRight, but I prefer to add new stuff that I surveyed. It seems to be that going out and collect data is more valuable as I have the impression that not a lot of people do that.

On the other hand, I enjoyed trying to fix the mistakes in my neighborhood listed by Check The Monuments. Probably, because I am more interested in that topic.

When I do not need my smartphone for navigation, I try to use it to take pictures with Mapillary. This allows me to take photos while I'm driving.

Where do you map ?

I map almost exclusively in Belgium. Of course, I also map during my holidays abroad. I have also mapped a few villages in Mongolia and Uganda. That is very relaxing, just tracing houses and path from aerial images. However, I prefer to map locally, where I am familiar with the environment.

What do you map ?

When I started mapping, I only payed attention to missing paths and the traditional Points of Interest (POI) such as shops, banks and mailboxes. It did not take long before I started mapping house numbers and bus stops. The list kept on growing when I added garbage cans, benches, picnic sites, life buoys, bicycle parkings etc.

Only during the last half year or so, I also started mapping underground fire hydrants (before that I did not know how to find them), street cabinets, markers for pipelines and the electricity cables for the local distribution. In the latter case, pictures found on Mapillary come in handy. The poles that hold those cables are often too small to be recognised on aerial images. That is perhaps the reason that they are not mapped a lot so far. There is a nice map that shows them though.

Of course, I also map the traffic signs for one ways, speed limits etc.

Since April 2014, I have been mapping the turn lanes in Flanders. Back then, I mapped a few of them, just to see the JOSM Lanes and Roads attributes style of Martin Vonwald in action. But I realised that this data could be very helpful for a car navigation program, so I continued mapping them, all over Flanders. One day I hope to be able to start in Wallonia. When I was mapping them for half a year or so, OsmAnd announced the support for this type of data. A few months later, the German community announced a project to focus on this data. They also developed a tool to view this data. It gives a nice feeling that others find this data also important.

During this virtual tour through Flanders, I occasionally saw some badly mapped crossings. However, in general the data seems complete and correct. On the other hand, I think that the data regarding the bicycle paths and lanes can be improved a lot. I have seen a lot of bad connections between the cycleways and the main roads. I also have the impression that a lot of oneway tags are missing on those cycleways, although that is hard to see on an aerial image of course. I fear that the navigation for cyclist is lacking in quality.

Thanks to the pictures on Mapillary, it is easy to map the destination signs. Finding the right picture can take some time, because the quality is not always good enough to read the signs. I hope that this will improve when more pictures become available. Those destinations are also used by OsmAnd, both on the display and as spoken navigation aids.

I also mapped many of the postal code boundaries. I had read on the German forum how they did it. Those relations turned out to be the solution to instruct Nominatim to return the correct postal code for an address. Other mappers have picked up this method and completed the postal code boundaries for Flanders. Unfortunately the administrative boundaries are often missing in Wallonia, so we cannot map the postal code boundaries.

Via Check the Monuments I discovered the historical places map. During my walks I had seen many signs for listed buildings, but never took the time to map them. In the meantime all listed buildings in Antwerp, Mechelen, Ghent and Bruges are mapped.

For each walk that I plan via a walking network, I also make a list of all historical buildings in the neighbourhood. I use a Python script that I wrote to generate a waypoint for each building. I find the list of those buildings, e.g in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw per town on wikipedia. When I am there, I check whether the building still exists and try to take a good picture of it. Those photos are placed on wikimedia. I also adapt the wikipedia page. Of course, all details about the buildings are added to OpenStreetMap.! Historical buildings and the walking network in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw

After meeting someone that had mapped the Japanese Garden in Hasselt during a meetup, I though that it would be neat to do something similar. So I visited the Open-Air Museum Middelheim (map) near Antwerp a couple of times in order to collect the data about the statues. In the meantime I should revisit the place to check the position of the statues, since they then to be moved from time to time. I also started a similar project to map all flowerbeds in the rose garden of the Vrijbroekpark in Mechelen.

Art in Middelheim viewed in OsmAnd Rose garden in umap

Why do you map ?

I like to explore new areas. The surveys give me a good excuse to do that. And of course, mapping is more useful that endlessly watching YouTube movies of playing games. And I find it relaxing as well.

I also enjoy starting little projects and experiment with unknown tags, which is one of the reasons to start mapping new stuff. This keeps it interesting as well.

What is your biggest achievement as a mapper ?

It is hard to choose between my contributions to the walking networks, the protected monuments and the turn lane mapping.

Do you do other things than just mapping ?

I have given a few introductionary presentations, e.g on OpenBelgium 2015 and at some workshop organised by Nicolas Pettiaux at the ESI in Brussels.

Furthermore I have collected a few presets that I often use in JOSM with tagging specific for Belgium. Someone made that collection available under the name BENELUX. The name is not the best in the world, but I hope it is useful for some Belgian mappers.

I also made the original English translation for the Historic Places map and their JOSM preset. I still maintain the Dutch translation for that website. Not too long ago I translated a wiki page with Overpass examples from German to English. This should make it possible to use the page in a Google Summer of Code project.

I am also part of the Belgian Mapper of the Month Team. This idea was launched by Ben Abelshausen last winter. The purpose is to put another mapper into the spotlights every month. We hope that this helps to get to know each other better and improve the community feeling. The team looks for a mapper each month, writes him or her with the questions and makes the needed translations. In the end the text is available in Dutch and French on the Belgian OpenStreetMap website and in English in my diary. The latter is done to give more exposure to the idea.

From time to time I try to help people on the help website and on one of the fora.

I also made a few simple maps with umap. Via the "Doggy map", I tried to introduce my friends from the dog world to OpenStreetMap, in the hope they would start mapping e.g. off leash areas. The map Fritures was an attempt to give more exposure to a typical Belgian form of fast food restaurant. I think it motivated some existing mappers to add some missing fritures in their neighbourhood or to adapt some incorrect tags.

Do you have ideas to expand the OpenStreetMap community ? I think we need more user-friendly applications that use "our" data. OsmAnd and and Telenav's Scout (USA-only) are good examples of such programs. I think it is a pity that we do not have a possibility to plan walks along the walking route networks, something that is possible on the wandelknooppunt-website, but that is not using OpenStreetMap data. We have so much more data such a picnic sites, parkings, historical buildinds, taverns, etc. which might power a website that should allow a user to plan her walk much better in advance.

Too many website are still focussed on mappers and to do not pay enough attention to ordinary users. This seems like a problem to me, as most people just consume data, they do not produce data.

We might have to create some projects similar to the German "weekassignments" or the English "trimester assignments" for the Belgian mappers. Given the relative success of my posting about the umap with fritures, it might help to motivate the mappers.

What is the biggest feature of OpenStreetMap?

The large diversity of data that can be combined in interesting ways, see e.g. the article on the "Het Pad van Ad" by Polyglot that combines a walking route, public transport and tourism information.

What is the biggest Challenge for OpenStreetMap ?

I have the impression that too many mappers are too focused on what they see on But, there are so many websites and applications. We should promote all of them more. Maybe the German, French or Belgian approach is better. First explain the visitors of the website that it is about the data, and that this data is used on many different websites and in different apps. After that, you can still show them a large example map. Right now, this map is still compared with Google and too many people complain that their favorite feature is not rendered as they wish.

How do you stay on top of OpenStreetMap related news ?

I try to follow about 15 mailing lists in 4 different languages. I learned a lot from the German forum. I discovered the Wochennotiz a few years ago and it seems to me that it is essential for anybody interested in OpenStreetMap. Luckily it is now also translated in several other languages. I also configured an alert on Google, which send me a mail message with new web pages related to OpenStreetMap. From time to time it contains a page that I did not see elsewhere.

Do you stay in contact with other mappers ?

I am rather active on the Belgian mailing list. I still have a lot of email conversations with Polyglot, who taught me a lot in my early days.

I try to participate in all kinds of gatherings with other mappers, such as meetups or introduction days. Furthermore I organized a few hangouts to explain some basic JOSM functionality to novice mappers. Such an introduction is not always easy via email.

When I have problems to tag something, I might directly contact other mappers for help. Sometimes the specialist cannot be found in Belgium and I do not always need the discussions that a mail to a public list generates. So far, that experience was very positive, I assume the reason is that everybody wants to make the map better.

I have been contacted myself regarding a feature that I mapped incorrectly. I was not sure of what it was, but I added a tag to a photo of the "thing". This allowed the specialist in that area to contact me, and tell me that it was a underground water reservoir for the fire department. I thought it was just an underground fire hydrant.

Anything else you want to share ?

I would recommend all beginning mappers to subscribe to the mailing list and ask for advice before starting any serious work. Not all information is provided by the editors.

Don't know what to think of it of this research

Posted by escada on 18 June 2015 in English (English)

Somewhere in April, I bought a smartphone and installed OsmAnd on it. During my first ride with it, I discovered that someone tagged a stretch of an highway with maxspeed=50. I noticed it, because OsmAnd suddenly warned my that I was speeding.

The same day I changed it back to the normal 120 and I left a changeset comment. Today I got a reply to that comment (in Dutch):

"Deze werd in OSM geplaatst voor een onderzoek naar de temporele kwaliteit van OpenStreetMap. Alle gemaakte fouten, die nog niet verbeterd werden door de gemeenschap, worden vandaag verbeterd."

The translation is something like

"Those errors were placed into OSM for a research in the temporal quality of OpenStreetMap. All deliberately made mistakes, that are not yet corrected by the community, will be corrected today"

Any thoughts ?

Belgian Mapper of the Month : Joost Schouppe

Posted by escada on 3 June 2015 in English (English)

Nederlandse Tekst

Texte français

Joost Schouppe

Joost Schouppe is a sociologist. He followed those studies because in his opinion, they are the least specialized that exist. He works in a social studies research center that covers a wide range of subjects. Most of the time the projects have both statistical and geographical aspects, trying to convert data hidden in databases into knowledge. This gave him the opportunity to study data processing in SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences )and made him discover the fascinating world of ArcGIS. A lot of his there is published on the neighborhood monitor of the city of Antwerp, a geostatistical platform. Besides his job, Joost loves being in nature and is fan of atlases, encyclopedia and travel guides. He prefers them in an open and digital format, but does not neglect the others.

How did you discover OpenStreetMap?

I re-discovered OpenStreetMap when I got my first smartphone. I wanted to use maps when I was abroad and did not want to pay for roaming costs. The first time I used OpenStreetMap was with OsmAnd. During a crowded walk, it showed me an alternative path, with not one other hiker.

Do you use OpenStreetMap yourself?

After a bad experience with an expensive GPS-map for South Africa, I switched to OsmAnd for a trip to the Dominican Republic, where we travelled around for about a month in a 4x4. The map was usable, but still much work to do. I also still remember the "shock" when I realized that I had to draw a miles long meandering road by hand instead of just importing the GPX track generated by the device. I already have an account since 2008. At that moment I planned to map the Bolivian village where I lived at the time. Unfortunately, there was nothing mapped in that area, there was not even aerial imagery available and I did not have a GPS back then. Only in 2013 I started to really contribute.

My wife and I are keen travelers. Close to home, it means exploring the nearby forests (even in Flanders, you can still add a path in every forest), but we are now back from a trip through South-America in a camper (blog) where we did over 32.000 km and navigated a year long with OsmAnd. You can believe me, the map is ready for navigation. In some towns, it might be more difficult, for example because turn restrictions aren't often mapped and is the infrastructure sometimes pretty chaotic. During the voyage, I taught my wife to take notes and POIs in OsmAnd. After awhile, she started to question me, "shouldn't we report that mistake here?". And of course we created tracks all the time. This is especially handy for small hiking paths and areas that have a lot of clouds in the aerial images. In Peru, I believe that all main roads can use some extra "improve geometry" sessions too.

How do you map?

I do not specialise in anything when it comes to mapping. Because of that, and because I prefer software that does not require a manual, I never made the effort to learn JOSM. But Potlatch is more useful than most people believe. Most of my work is in empty areas. I scan aerial images for roads and settlements, without planning anything in advance.

On my smartphone, I only use OsmAnd. That can do everything. With some attention to detail, you can place most POIs rather accurately. When the map is too complex, or when I do not know the tags, or when I cannot edit it with OsmAnd, I make a note. By now, I am in the worldwide top-50 note users. It is fun to close notes, because you learn to map the most diverse features. I added my first turn restriction because there were several notes of this type in La Paz, Bolivia that were open for some months.

I once gave Mapillary a try, but with little success: the battery of my smartphone was drained, even with a connected charger. I could not run the navigation on the foreground and in a couple of hours all free space was consumed. I will keep trying though.

One of my first projects was to map the area around Coroico. I know the area very well, because I mapped the whole area before, on paper. Strictly speaking, this is armchair mapping and this is still what I do the most. But I only do this in areas that I know more or less, which does help to interpret the the satellite images.

Even though I'm late to the party, my first contributions were mainly new roads and paths. This is a good training school, you cannot make a lot of mistakes. You can't really do this anymore in most of Europe of course, unless you are interested in paths in forests. Five years after my initial plan, I finally started to map that Bolivian village, Coroico. Probably the most detailed village in South America by now. In that region I scanned hundreds square kilometers for settlements and roads.

When I needed administrative boundaries for my project, I worked on this topic a bit. A lot of cleanup has been done all over the world since then. I received a lot of help from user Wambacher, who was interested in this topic to improve the quality of his boundary tool.

The usage of the map in South America made me realize how important and difficult it is to determine the road classification. In Belgium, we regard the state of a road as a detail, something like "is it a street with cobblestones or did they use paving stones ". In countries with a less developed road network, the first thing you want to know is whether or not you can even take the road with your vehicle. Although the data is there in some cases, there are not enough applications that use the data. I tagged several thousand kilometers of roads with surface tags in Peru and Bolivia. The data is almost complete in Argentina and Chili, and still there are no maps that optimally use this data.

Like many mappers, I guess I am a bit neurotic. It is satisfying to simplify the real, complex world into a few categories. Once you start with something, you want to get rid of the incompleteness in the map data. Be it a few small roads in the Amazone forest in Bolivia that are missing, or complete suburbs of El Alto. Before you realize it, you have been mapping roads for a month or two. And when that is finished, you are bothered by the fact that the landuse mapping in Flanders still has some white spots.

For me, mapping is something like filling in a sudoku. It requires some attention, but in a weird way it is very relaxing. And of course it is more useful.

I also believe that more data means that it will be used more, leading to more contributors. When OpenStreetMap has the best data of the road network in Bolivia --- and guess what, it is --- more organizations will use that data. On the State of the Map in Buenos Aires, there was a presentation from a Bolivian federal agency that protects the rainforest. They talked about how they use OpenStreetMap. They gave an example of a trip to the other side of the country, where OpenStreetMap showed him a "shortcut", while everybody else told him to make a detour of 800 km. The idea that you, or someone like yourself, might have drawn that road, gives you a special feeling.

What are you most proud of as a mapper ?

I can think of several things, but nothing is good enough to be really proud of. I usually lose interest in a topic when it is almost finished. Luckily that is no problem in OpenStreetMap, one day someone else will finish the job.

Do you contribute in other ways to OpenStreetMap ?

Unfortunately, I am someone that produces a lot of ideas, but not a lot of products. OpenStreetMap culture is very much do-it-yourself, so reactions to these ideas aren't always very positive. I tend to keep some ideas to myself, but often I can't control myself. I am active on and, both to assist or to seek assistance.

I am working on a project using Swing to represent the evolution of OpenStreetMap, at the level of regions around the world. The progress is slower than I hoped, even though I got a lot of help from several very kind people in the OpenStreetMap community. Especially Ben Abelshausen has been amazing. It was a wonderful experience to get the chance to present the project at State of the Map in Buenos Aires, even though I would have like to be able to present a more finished project (Video).

Being part of the overlander community for a year, I thought I needed to convince my fellow travellers to use OpenStreetMap. That was unnecessary: most of them navigate with OpenStreetMap anyway. Unfortunately, most apps do little to convert data users to data contributors. One app that does more is OsmAnd. But it isn't the most user friendly one. That's why I wrote a long blogpost on how you can use OsmAnd for your own needs and meanwhile improve the map too. That has been quite a popular post, but it is in dire need of an update now that version 2.0 is out. Of course it would be great if other apps implemented some of the feedback tools too. That isn't too much to ask, no?

Another thing I would like to do is to organize a mapping party in my hometown Ghent. But I told you already about how my ideas take some time to materialize.

What are your ideas about growing the OpenStreetMap Community?

OpenStreetMap grows in a self-reinforcing virtuous circle. More data means more data usage. Data consumers can be converter to contributors. One time contributors can be converted to regular contributors. But the conversion rate is not constant. Apps such as OsmAnd have an higher conversion rate than Maps with Me. iD is supposed keep more mappers coming back than Potlatch did. Every contribution to the development of OpenStreetMap is part of this process, be it contributions to data, better usage of data, conversion of new users, better retention of new mappers

What is the key feature OpenStreetMap?

One of the strongest points is of course the flexibility and the freedom. We are only united by the common, ambitious, somewhat crazy idea to map the whole world. This allows everyone to chose their own topics, which leads to a general purpose map. The reason that som many procedures are so long winded and difficult to accomplish, is because procedures do not belong in the OpenStreetMap-world. There is a fantastic book that describes this phenomenom, Swarmwise by Falkvinge. The similarities between OpenStreetMap and the political movement is amazing. In short: start with one person with a slightly crazy (or ambitious) idea. Let this be executed by a group of people, that have to freedom to put their own accents. Furthermore, only let the execution be done by people that enjoy doing it, and that are not motivated by a reward. The book is also a practical guide. The challenges and opportunities that are described in the book, are the same as the OpenStreetMap community is facing. Recommended ! And of course, free to [download](]

What are the challenges for OpenStreetMap ?

For me, the biggest problem seems to be that the a lot of data is not used. Because you can map a wide variety of things, the map on the website only gives a limited introduction. I also fear that people that want to work around one specific theme, will opt for a separate database, because that is easier to work with. Nevertheless it is easy to create a rich community around a specific feature. Take e.g. a look at the huge success of iOverlander. This app allows the user to easily find campsites suitable for campers. Those sites are tagged with information such as the availability of internet, water, etc. Everybody can contribute, correct, review. OpenStreetMap loses the contributions of all those people and they miss the connection with a map that guides you to the site. My dream is an iOverlander app that only uses data from OpenStreetMap. When that app would be easily adaptable for other interest groups, you have a killer app that OpenStreetMap needs. I really like the idea of Coffeedex, but the topic might be a bit controversial for a first roll out.

How do you stay on top of OpenStreetMap news ?

There are many channels, often with their own community. I can hardly follow all the mailing lists, besides the common one for Latin America. On the fora, there is not a lot of action {Editor's note: except perhaps the German one]. The Help site is not known enough, although it is fantastic for specific questions. I even think I had to discover this website via Google. Furthermore there is OSMweekly, the diaries and the Reddit group. This can be better in my opinion. I like Reddit a lot, all readers contribute to the evaluation of each new post and each comment. The consequence is that the most important information automatically comes out. It would be great when all OpenStreetMap news sources could be combined like that.

Do you have contacts with other mappers ?

Locally, I have met Ben and Jorieke several time. Thanks to the Meetups they organised in Ghent. Last year, I visited several of them and met several other mappers during those gatherings. I also keep close contact with Marco Antonio, one of the most renomated mapper in Bolivia.

Belgian Mapper of the Month

Posted by escada on 7 May 2015 in English (English)

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Brice (eMerzh) lives in Jette. He is 30 and programmer in a small start-up in Brussels that is active in social analytics. He is passionate about open source and everything around it. For his job he works on Archlinux + KDE and his preferred OpenStreetMap editor is of course JOSM!

Profile Picture

When and where did you discover OpenStreetMap?

I discovered OpenStreetMap by accident in 2007, when it was mentioned on a website with Linux information, ( I was attracted by the collaboration and open aspects of the project. I soon discovered that my street was not mapped yet and see... I was bitten by the bug.

Do you use OpenStreetMap yourself?

I regularly use OpenStreetMap for looking up information and visualising it on the internet. Sometimes I also use OsmAnd on a smartphone when I am abroad. But I have to confess that I still use Google Maps a lot, probably until OpenStreetMap and Mapillary have reached the same level.

Which type of mapper are you?

I have three faces:

  • the occasional surveyor: during my holidays I often take notes to map later on. I also collect traces or take pictures for Mapillary.
  • the mapper at distance: from my living room. I worked a lot on the Urbis import, but also in the southern part of Belgium.
  • making corrections : I regularly use Osmose and KeepRight or just JOSM to correct errors.

Thus, I mainly map in Brussels, but also in the Southern part of Belgium.

What do you map?

I'm not specialized in something particular. I just would like to see that OpenStreetMap is used in the everyday life of a maximum of people with data as reliable (or even more reliable) as Google Maps. So I help a lot in mapping address information and information for routing like maximum speed, junctions, names, ...

What is you biggest accomplishment as mapper ?

Accomplishment ? I think that I did a rather large part of the Urbis import. Even if the work is not completely done yet, it still means that the majority of the addresses in Brussels are now mapped.

Why do you map?

Such a rich database, which is open and free to use by man and machines...

Do you do other things for OpenStreetMap?

I make some statistics here and there, and I developed the app OpenFixMap (although I have to update it), but most of the time I just talk about it!

Do you have contact with other mappers?

I have only some contact with Julien Fastré and with some friends that also map (Hello Pollux! ), but that is it.

Do you have ideas to let the OpenStreetMap community grow?

I think we should really go for "gamification". Applications such as MapRoulette are a good start. However, I am thinking more about things like Ingres or Waze. Pushing people to contribute, without really mapping.

How do you stay up-to-date with OpenStreetMap?

Thanks to the mailing lists, my RSS-feed, twitter... I think I'm aware of what is going on.

What is the biggest strength of OpenStreetMap?

The fact that the data is free, the flexibility of the schema and the unlimited possibilities to add data.

What is the biggest challenge for OpenStreetMap?

It might be a problem to keep attracting contributors, real ones, not just accounts. Another challenge is to standardise as much tags as possible without limiting the extendibility. The project Tag Central can I find very interesting in this point of view. The addition of 2.5d/3D might also pose some challenges.

Belgian Mappers of the Month: Ruben & Josefien

Posted by escada on 4 April 2015 in English (English)

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Josefien and Ruben (M!dgard) are 20 and 19 years old. Between their mapping activities, they are going to college. In high school, they were best mates; and now they walk the streets of Blankenberge and neighbouring villages with their self-made OpenStreetMap badge. Ruben is more interested in the technical aspects, while Josefien spends her free time to design and make two OpenStreetMap T-shirts to wear during their surveys. They love to help others, e.g. they give blood plasma every two weeks in Ghent.

Mapping Badges

How and when did you Learn about OpenStreetMap?

Ruben: In 2012 I looked at Google Maps and saw that a path in my neighbourhood was mapped incorrectly. I decided to change it with the new Map Maker. Unfortunately, the change only became visible months later. My dad had heard of OpenStreetMap and thought I would enjoy it more. So I browsed to, and shortly after that I had made an account.

Jose: Ruben loves to tell about his computer stuff. This time it was different, it was not only something I could do, but we could also do it together.

Do you use OpenStreetMap?

Ruben: Yes, when we need to lookup a street or an address, we usually first look at OpenStreetMap. Jose: And when it is not yet on OSM, we map it ourselves.

How do you map?

Ruben: I map all kinds of different things, new buildings and their addresses, as well as correcting errors reported by Keepright or Osmose. I also experiment with 3D-tagging. I have never done a lot of surveys, although I put a lot of things on the map that I encounter. So, I am not a pure armchair mapper, but also not the most active surveyor.

Jose: Last year we did a real survey, but without GPS. We gathered all POIs in the Kerkstraat in Blankenberge by writing them down on paper.

Where do you map?

Jose: At the moment I still have a lot of work with my hometown, which is not well mapped. That is also easy, if I want to know how the reality is, I jump on my bicycle and have a look.

Ruben: I wish that I could mapped so organized as her. I do not work with any system. But I mainly map what I saw in the real world, so I know I map it correctly. I always take notes of interesting features, whether it is in Belgium, or abroad, e.g. during a holiday.

What do you map? Do you specialise in something?

Jose: Mailboxes are one of my favorite features. Because I love to send letters, I remember their location anyway. We also map defibrillators, mainly because they can save lives. We also map the opening hours of the building on the defibrillators, so you will not end up at one that is inaccessible.

Ruben: I map a lot of different items. I enjoy mapping turn lanes, but I wished there would be more maps that show them.


Why do you map? What motivates you?

Jose: Like most people, I often pass the time by clicking around on the web. With OpenStreetMap, I now found something to spend that time more useful. Although I have to admit that it is also an excuse not to work for school. It is also very motivating that Ruben likes it when I am mapping stuff and that he encourages me to go out and survey a bit.

Ruben: I believe in open and free data. That is why I contribute to a map based on those principles and help the project to be usable and accessible for everyone. O yes, and often times it is just procrastination. (laughs)

Do you do other things concerning OSM?

Ruben: Translating the editor iD is something that I find important. Not just quickly to be done with it, but accurately to provide new mappers with a tool that lets them map precisely what they intend. A confusing or incoherent translation, like an inconsistent terminology, can scare new users quickly. That is why I have translated a great deal of iD into Dutch. In February I completed the translation.

Jose: That was also useful for me, because I used iD for its simplicity. Nowadays I use JOSM because that is of course much more powerful.

Ruben: Making links between OpenStreetMap and Wikidata is interesting as well. Instead of tagging the name of a Wikipedia article, you can tag the Wikidata id for the feature. Not only does this associate all of the Wikipedia articles at once with the OSM object, it also provides machine readable information.

What is in your view the greatest strength of OpenStreetMap?

Jose: That all users are a part of the community and the fact that every little change, each node you edit, is a step forwards to something Ruben and I really support. It's just great fun to try and map all of Belgium and we want to help, as much as possible.

Ruben: I think it's great that the data can be used virtually without limitations, and that everyone can help out, from teenagers to multinationals.

What are your ideas about expanding the OpenStreetMap community?

Jose: When Ruben told me that I am one of the few mapping girls, I was a little bit surprised. I had not expected a female majority, but apparently there are really few. I think prejudices also play a role here. A lot of women have an eye for detail and I think that more would be willing to map if only the project was better known. The technical aspect of mapping is boyish and the subject in itself as well, so it is simply not as easily found by women. I have shown it to a lot of girlfriends and every time I make a map for whatever event I use OSM. So far it has not got OSM any new (female) members.

Ruben: OpenStreetMap should be more famous in Belgium. British friends of Jose had used OpenStreetMap already. A showcase website sporting beautiful maps and showing other possibilities of OpenStreetMap would make a great tool to show other people why we are spending our time on this.

Do you have any ideas to take OSM to the next level?

Jose: I would like that for every newbie there is someone who gives them feedback when they create their first node. The fact that Ruben could give me hints and answer my questions, was invaluable. A lot of people could make it through the first crucial moments in iD if there were some sort of system to let more experienced mappers help a new person. There should be a better communication between mappers as well. Contacting others is not straightforward and unaccessible for people who are unfamiliar with web pages and wikis. Any kind of mentorship would be a big step forwards. Even I could already help some people with putting their first objects on the map.

Ruben: That is a great idea. Of course that asks for a lot of dedication and effort from experienced mappers but after a while we would see more people staying active in the project. Many make just a few changesets and subsequently forget about their account. A good and informative portal, that is referenced when you are mapping, could already make a difference. A second point is the need for a good, clickable slippy map. OpenLinkMap is a wonderful initiative, but we I am convinced that we can do better. Friends to whom I show that website are not impressed, because it does not look as good as Google Maps. People are picky about the look of websites these days ...

How to do stay on top of news about OpenStreetMap?

Jose: Ruben tells me, of course. He reads about all new stuff he encounters and is on several mailinglists.

Ruben: The talk-be, talk and tagging, but I only read talk-be, and not that often. There are a lot of mails and I have other things to do as well.

Do you have contact with other mappers?

Jose: Not so much. Only Ruben and one of his friends who joined recently. Ruben: Yes, when I told my friends that I was nominated for this interview, one of them promptly made an account, that is funny. He promised to map all nice venues he knows in Ghent.

Jose: That is something we can only encourage!

Ruben: In my early days, when I used Potlach 2, I was contacted by someone because I had made an error. He guided me a bit, for which I am still grateful. Meanwhile I have sent messages to others myself. Other than that, I do not have a lot of contact with fellow mappers.

To conclude, is there something else you want to share with the readers?

Ruben: Like my great grandfather always says: the only good disease that I know of, is OCOSMD! (Obsessive Compulsive Open Street Mapping Disorder, editor's note)

Belgian Mapper of the Month: Pierre Parmentier

Posted by escada on 3 March 2015 in English (English)

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Pierre Parmentier Profile Picture

Pierre Parmentier is an engineer in construction. He first worked on construction sites and projects in Africa, the Middle East and South America. Then in Belgium. Currently, as freelancer, he participates in industrial projects in different countries of the world. Everything what has to do with mapping, orienteering and fortifications are his hobbies. And many other subjects ! He maps under the name foxandpotatoes.

How did you get to know OpenStreetMap?

That was in 2009. I completed the highway network in the Sonian Forest. Then, everywhere I stayed, where I went, where I worked, like in Saint-Quentin, in Montmédy, traveling, on vacation, around Brussels, I completed the data. I also call upon my memory of living overseas.

Do you use OpenStreetMap?

OpenStreetMap helps me to prepare travels and to locate points of interest. For editing, I use JOSM and validation tools like Osmosis and OSM Inspector. As GPS, I have a Garmin Etrex 20 and I use OsmAnd+ with my smartphone. I also started to 'play' with uMap.

How do you map?

I am a rather isolated contributor. I never had the opportunity to attend a mapping party. I work mostly on places I know. But with validation tools, I can do more distant corrections.

What do you map?

I work mostly on basic data like highways, buildings, the UrbIS import, addresses and shops. Occasionally, I added roadside trees, hydrants, AED, pedestrian crossings, post boxes.

How Did You Contribute?

Why do you map?

What motivates me is the passion for maps, the desire to understand the landscape and my environment. When I see a forested embankment in the countryside, I imagine immediately the railroad passing by. Mapping leads to many questions: history, geography, semantics. That's what interests me! But also participating in a worthwhile project is important for me.

What is your biggest achievement as mapper ?

Nothing in particular. We are like ants and each contributor adds his small piece. And each contribution deserves respect!

What are your ideas about expanding the OpenStreetMap community?

I think we should focus on what OpenStreetMap can make a popular tool for the one that moves, including people outside of major cities. Adding bins and lighting, is of course included in the project, but it should come later. Yes, we could add, for example, all the underground networks, useful in public works, but this should not be a priority for now. Furthermore, it is unfortunate that in Belgium, we are not a real ASBL-VZW with a legal personality. Such an organisation will increase our visibility and we could turn to the press and the media more easily. We have for example seen how OpenStreetMap France has become in recent years a public actor with a considerable weight. I also think we should prepare and distribute paper leaflets explaining the nature of the Belgian project. The brochure is available in Dutch; it must only be adapted and also prepared in French and English.

What is in your view the greatest strength of OpenStreetMap?

The greatest strength of OpenStreetMap is to be free. Opportunities to use and reuse are endless. Look at all those ideas and applications that are popping up everywhere, such as the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, Waymarked Trails, the Geschichtkarten. All this is very stimulating!

What are the largest challenges for OpenStreetMap?

OpenStreetMap must take advantage of the current trend to put everything on maps, to go graphical. It is a quite recent phenomenon.

How to do stay on top of news about OpenStreetMap ?

I read the mailing lists Talk-be and Newbies.

Do you have contact with other Mappers ?

No, very little, but I have met contributors in Leuven, Gent and Brussels, at the FOSDEM and at ESI.

To conclude, is there something else you want to share with the readers?

To the Belgian contributors, I say 'Hats off to you'. To the user of our data, I would say ... join us and become a contributor

OpenBelgium 2015

Posted by escada on 25 February 2015 in English (English)

OpenBelgium 2015 took place in Namur on February 23.

Ben Abelshausen organized a session on OpenStreetMap and asked me to be co-presenter. I arrived early in Namur, because I wanted to avoid the traffic jams around Brussels. Hence I had plenty of time for a short walk in the town center. Although a lot of POIs are already mapped, I still took over 300 pictures and hope to find some missing features. And yes, so far I found a couple of missing memorials, statues and it turned out that some POIs could be updated as. Haven't finished this yet.

Back to the conference. The session on OpenStreetMap was titled "It's the community, stupid" to emphasize that this data is not coming from the public sector, unlike most other data discussed in the other sessions.

I had the honour to kick of the session and talked about the daily life of a crazy mapper. After me, Jorieke showed the audience that mappers do work together via a variety of tools and that mapping can be a social event as well. She also talked about collaboration with communities in developing countries through HOT.

Next, Ben talked about imports and how good imports can enrich the community. Finally, Glenn talked about using OpenStreetMap data and how consumers can be part of the community as well.

Afterwards we had to answer several questions on quality, possible collaborations with the government and how people could start using data. It seems that there will be follow-up meetings on the use of and the contribution to OpenStreetMap within the public sector as well.

Exiting times and I hope this will increase the interest in OpenStreetMap.

It was also great to see Nicolas and Julien back, as well as meeting Marc Ducobu, who is doing the translations to French of our Mapper of the Month interviews.

The next event is a mapping party in Brussels with as main topics cycling and wheelchair access. The event will take place on April 25, for more info, see the wiki.

Hope to see you there.

Location: Bomel, Salzinnes, Namur, Wallonia, 5000, Belgium

Belgian Mapper of the Month: Brecht Bonne

Posted by escada on 4 February 2015 in English (English)

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Brecht Bonne Profile Picture Brecht Bonne is mapping on OpenStreetMap under the name "peeweeke", how he got that name, is a long strory ... Brecht is 33 years old and lives in Bruges. Currently he is in between jobs, but he has an education in computer sciences and as network administrator. Brecht is always on the move and has a lot of hobbies. First of all, of course, computer sciences, but he also volunteers a lot: at a youth movement for disabled people, at the Red Cross, at Oxfam Solidarity and their Worldshops. He likes to travel, not always far away, because close to home he is experiencing the same fun! For several years he combines this now with mapping for OpenStreetMap.

How did you get to know OpenStreetMap?

The first time I heard about OpenStreetMap was already ‘long time ago’ in 2007. When I searched for my hometown Bruges by then, there was not yet that much on OpenStreetMap so I forgot about the project for a while. In 2011 I bought a walking GPS, a ‘Garmin eTrex Legend Hcx’. Because I didn’t bought maps with it, I started searching for information… and I came across OpenStreetMap again! So I installed the maps, but with a first test in my neighbourhood, I noticed a walking path, next to the place where I was living, which was not on the map. The step to really add something to OpenStreetMap took several months, but in April 2011 I finally added my first nodes to the OpenStreetMap server.

Do you use OpenStreetMap?

I use OpenStreetMap almost every day. My navigation devices are all using OpenStreetMap-maps and if I don’t know where a place exactly is, I always use OpenStreetMap next to others. The level of detail is just better than in other maps. If I go walking, cycling, driving by car or if I’m going somewhere by plane, I’ll always have an OpenStreetMap-map in my pocket!

How do you map?

I do almost everything, but most of the time surveys! I do a lot of surveys in and around Bruges, because in contrary what you maybe would expect, there is still a lot of mapping-work in Bruges. The OpenStreetMap-landscape it quite empty, with only a few active members. I do a lot of surveys, simply because I find it the best way to collect data. My toolset kept on growing over the years. However, there is one constant: my "Garmin eTrex Legend Hcx" . I can add the tracks and waypoints that I collect with it to the database without any problem. That is, when I use unique names to the waypoints. This can be hard when one encounters 66 benches on a walk. Later on, I got a track-logger. Unfortunately, it got lost in the bushes in Kent, England. After obtaining a good backpack, I started to investigate the capabilities of my Android GSM. I tested a few apps. My conclusion was that Vespucci the best of the pack, but it is still lacking in some areas for me. A few months later, I discovered "OSMTracker", which suits my needs better. Mainly because it does not complain about the n-th bench or tree and also because I still prefer editing OpenStreetMap-data on a large screen and with a computer mouse. Yes, I confess, I enjoy lazy Sundays When the weather is not nice, or in winter, when the days are shorter, I dare to stay at home and just map from Bing aerial images. The biggest project I ever did was to prepare for a trip in August 2014. I planned to have many walks in the beautiful nature of Carmathen, Wales. So I mapped a complete river and nearby land all the way up to Llandeilo. It took me several weeks to finish this project. One of the reasons was that "Ordnance Survey Opendata" was not available for the complete stretch and I had to use old Bing imagery. I was a royal customer of the library in Bruges during that period. Unfortunately, upon my arrival in Wales, it turned out that the old railway was still in private hands ... During one of the first OSM meetups in Belgium, I got in contact with Jorieke Vyncke. Full of passion, she told me about her work in the Central African Republic. Afterwards I completed my first tasks for HOT during the floods in India. More recently, I had a good time during the Missing Maps Mapathon and it gives a warm feeling to make such valuable contributions. As you can see on my statistics page, I'm a devoted JOSM user. It is a solid program both on Windows and Linux with numerous features. During the Missing Maps Marathon in Antwerp, I learned a few more tricks. But I have to admit, that my first node is added with Potlatch. But just as with iD, I soon encountered some limitations of the editor When MapRoulette was mentioned on, I had a look at it. However, after a few attempts to separate roads and rivers in Italy, I gave up. Maybe I will give it another try later. Most of my mapping activity is close to my home town. That means in Belgium, but sometimes by hikes bring me over the border to Zeeland (The Netherlands) or in the Département du Nord in France. And I already told you about my adventures in Wales. Furthermore I made a few small corrections in Kent. During my vacation in Ireland in 2012, I could not resist to map 2 of my hikes. For HOT, I have (virtually) traveled around the world: to India, but also to the Central African Republic, Mali and Congo-Kinshasa. I even made 8 changes in unknown places, probably the moon ...

Flemish walking network

What do you map?

My first edits were very small and I was extremely careful. As said before, it took me almost a year after the creation of my to make my first edit. Right now, everything goes smoother and faster. I walk or cycle a bit around with my GPS and afterwards I put everything online. I am not specializing in one topic or feature, but when I encounter something that has not been mapped in my area, I will focus on that for awhile. An example are the bus routes in Bruges. Two summers ago, I focussed on my own neighborhood, mainly the streets, footpaths and playgrounds. Sint-Pieters and Sint-Jozef, both suburbs of Bruges, are now mapped completely. This summer I started adding more detail, by collecting house numbers, using FieldPapers). This lead to some discussions with the neighbors, who thought I was a weirdo. I guess you do not need an explanation. Some years ago I started to walk along the regional walking networks near me, and, of course I map them. I completed the "Zwin"-network, the "Kustwandelnetwork", which links the Zwin nature reserve and the "Westhoek". I even crossed the border because the network stretches as far as Dunkirk. I stopped mapping them in The Netherlands. The quality of the map seems to be much better there than in West-Vlaanderen. Among others because a large part of network "Grenzeloos Genieten" ("Borderless Pleasure") was already mapped. I still have some projects in mind for the future.

Why do you map?

My biggest pleasure is to share the information that I know of researched. I used to have a neighbor that teached barefoot walking classes. So it was a pleasure to map that extra piece of nature. It is also good for me, to get outside for a walk. The additional nodes and ways in OpenStreetMap is a nice extra. Recently, I found a bridge that connected two paths. Adding that extra piece of information to OpenStreetMap gives a special feeling. Mapping for HOT is even more satisfying, since that might save lives. Apart from that, it is nice that the community can generate good maps for navigation, either for programs such as OsmAnd or Garmin devices.

Do you contribute in other ways to OpenStreetMap ?

Not really, although I used to write on other wiki's. It is a lot of typing. I have been subscribed to mailing lists, but it is not really my cup of tea. I proposed to give a lecture on OpenStreetMap in the community center, but they do not expect that there will be a lot of interest. I could do some translation work in the future. I would have to learn how to program first, before I could contribute to software development.

What is your biggest achievement as mapper ?

The map in my neighborhood and the bus routes in my town. Furthermore my contributions of many kilometers of walking paths in Belgium, The Netherlands, Frans, Wales and Ireland.

What are your ideas about expanding the OpenStreetMap community?

My experience is that people only give something in case they could benefit from it. So I expect that the community will grow automatically when the quality of the maps and the applications continue to increase.

How can we motivate more people?

Back in 2007, I did not start mapping because the map was just empty. It seemed such a huge undertaking, that I just could not start. In 2011, a lot had changed. I expect that completing a map is more appealing than building from scratch.

What is in your view the greatest strength of OpenStreetMap?

The greatest strength is neutrality. The community has to political agenda. Also, the short time frame that is needed to completely map a area after a disaster is amazing. Because the system depends on the contributions of volunteers, everything goes faster than when it would be based on payed labour.

How to do stay on top of news about OpenStreetMap ?

The monthly meetings, and of course the website.

Do you have contact with other Mappers ?

In the past I tried to contact some mappers in my neighborhood, without luck. I found exactly 1 mapper that was interested in a cup of coffee. However, I noticed that we were interested in different topics. On the other hand, the monthly meetings, are useful to learn new things.

To conclude, is there something else you want to share with the readers?

I think that all participants of the Missing Maps Meeting in Antwerp deserve respect. The majority had never heard of OpenStreetMap before and even then, the task was completed after a few hours. That was a job well done !

Belgian Mapper of the Month: Guy Roman

Posted by escada on 2 January 2015 in English (English)

Nederlandse tekst

Texte français

Guy Roman


Since five years Guy Roman is retired. Before that he was technical electrician for a engineering company. He mainly followed up projects for energy distribution and automation. So he was already "drawing" during his career.

How and when did you discover OpenStreetMap?

I accidentally discovered OpenStreetMap in 2008.

What kind of mapper are you and where are you mapping?

I map a lot, mainly in Hainaut, a province in Belgium, but I also map abroad. Partly based on trips I make during my vacations, but I also base my mapping on photos that appeal to me. An example is a photo of St Rambert-en-Bugey in France that I found in a magazine about railways. I looked up the area in OpenStreetmap and then mapped it based on the picture and Bing arial images.

What do you map and do you have any specialisation?

I mainly use the aerial images from Bing, but I combine this with the available GPS traces for ways that are invisible on Bing, e.g. in forests. Further I also do surveys, to determine the type of the roads for example. Quite regularly I go cycling 50 or 70 kilometers, where I verify my database of geographical data and if necessary I change things on OpenStreetMap.

Why do you map?

It is fun, and it allows me to explore the world without leaving my house!

Guy's contributions Guy's contributions

Do you do other things related to OpenStreetMap?

I try to convince possible "passive" users to use OpenStreetMap, such as organisers of hiking trips.

How can OpenStreetMap be improved?

I hope that the rendering of some details can be improved on the default map. An example are areas tagged as "natural=scree" for example near mountain rivers. It could be rendered similarly to beaches, but in grey. Another example: it would be nice to have a rendering for a stream on a bridge. At this moment it is only possible for a canal. Unfortunately I do not have enough knowledge to help out to improve this.

To conclude, is there something else you want to share with the readers?

Only change an object when you are sure that it will be more precise or closer to reality than the current version. Also, when you have doubts about something, please contact the previous mapper to ask more details about the current mapping! Furthermore, please respect the classification of the roads. The classification of a road does not suddenly change to residential, because there are few houses.

Editing with Overpass and Level0

Posted by escada on 20 December 2014 in English (English)

Recently I noticed that the links that I have been using for heritage:website in Flanders were broken. Since this has been going on for a couple of weeks, it is not just a temporarily hiatus, but a permanent problem. So I have to update them all.

The old format was<relict-number>

The new URL is<relict-number>

First, I use an Overpass query to find all those listed buildings.

Result of Overpass query

Overpass allows you to open the result in an editor, e.g. Level0.

Export from Overpass

Level0 is a "simple" editor that allows you to edit OSM data

The data in Level0

The editor is so simple that there is no find+replace functionality. So I copied all the data into a text editor on my computer. There, I replaced the wrong URLs with the correct ones. This is a straightforward operation on any text editor. Then I copied all data back into the Level0 editor.

I logged into OSM. You can find the login button just above the data section, on the left. I confirmed the OSM dialog in order to allow Level0 to use my account

Level0 account confirmation

The result is that Level0, now knows who I am Level0 knows how I am

After filling in a changeset comment the data is ready to be uploaded Updated data and changeset comment

is this a mechanical edit ? Not for me. I added at least 90% of those URLs myself. I checked several URLs myself and found that none of the old URLs were working anymore. So for me this is just a resurvey of data.

I also used this principle to update some fire hydrants that I added without specifying the type of the hydrant. This mechanism was also used to add some wikidata numbers to administrative boundaries in Belgium. Since I manually looked up the wikidata, this was not a mechanical edit neither.

I admit that this can be used to perform mechanical edits, but nevertheless I consider it as a powerful tool to quickly edit some incorrect data.

Lanes and turn:lanes

Posted by escada on 17 December 2014 in English (English)

One of the projects I have been working on since April this year, is adding lanes & turn:lanes information to all motorways, trunk roads and primary roads in Flanders.

The work is far from finished, as you can see on Missing lanes in Flanders

This is the Overpass Query I used:

Location: Keibrekerspad, Terhagen, Rumst, Antwerp, Flanders, 2840, Belgium

Belgium: Mapper of the Month December 2014

Posted by escada on 2 December 2014 in English (English)

The second article in this series. Nederlandse tekst - Texte français

Mapper of the month: Guy Vanvuchelen

Guy's username is GuyVV. He is 70 and lives in the area around Tienen. He has worked all his life for a bank. During the last years of his active career he made a lot of statistics, using tools such as Framework, DBase, Excel and Access. He bought his first computer, a MSX, in 1988. A few years later he switched to a "PC". Although he lost track, he assumes that he already owned 20 different models. He is an amateur photographer since his 16th birthday. Later on, he also made digital videos and recently he is into digital photography. Since his retirement he started to walk, slightly pushed by his wife. After buying a Garmin Etrex, he enjoyed it more since he had something to do; namely recording tracks!

How and when did you discover OpenStreetMap?

While I was looking for free maps for my Garmin, I discovered OpenStreetMap. Almost immediately, I realized that those free maps were often better than the official, expensive maps from Garmin. For this reason I use OSM on my Garmin and with OsmAnd.

What kind of mapper are you and where are you mapping?

Wherever I go for my walks, typically signposted walks with a club, I make notes. I do not really make structured notes. For this purpose, I use OsmAnd with voice recording. At the moment I try to "write down" the width of roads, the maximum allowed speed, the surface or type of track, the start and end of villages. Furthermore I am interested in all chapels and wayside shrines, so I mark them as well. From time to time I also encounter footpaths ("Trage Wegen") that are missing. After a walk of 10 kilometers, I have 30-50 minutes of voice recorded notes. From time to time I get some unexpected help from my walking buddies when they let me know beforehand when we are approaching a wayside chapel. They do not really know what I am doing and they think I am only interested in taking a picture.

What do you map and do you have any specialization?

When I started, I thought we should only map roads. I know better now. I'm not specialized in a certain topic, but I will never pass a little chapel without making a note! For awhile, I also collected some address information. I started around my house and walked all the street in the neighborhood. After the arrival of AGIV, I did some couch mapping of house numbers. At this moment I am not sure whether I should continue or now. There has been a lot of discussion on the Belgian mailing list and I do not know whether it is worth the effort to collect the data by surveying.

Why do you map? What motivates you?

I would love to make the map better than the commercial maps, especially around Tienen. I hope that this will make it easier for me convince family and friends to use OpenStreetMap. One of the problems I see at the moment is that the data for car navigation are not complete enough and therefore people do not start using it. Most mappers are mapping from walking or cycling perspective and seem less interested in that type of data. Let me explain this a bit more. I drive with a caravan behind my car. Therefore I do not want to drive along small roads where it is difficult to pass a car from the opposite direction. My TomTom does not help me in this case. Therefore I want to add the width or the number of lanes in OpenStreetMap, so that in the end the map is better than the commercial ones.

Do you do other things related to OpenStreetMap?

Not really, only an occasional attempt to convince friends.

What are your ideas about expanding the OpenStreetMap community? How can we motivate more people?

It is still to difficult for people to start contributing. This is partly due to the lack of documentation in Dutch. I think that meeting on a regular basis for small groups of people could be very helpful. We could stimulate, learn together, etc.

What is in your view the greatest strength of OpenStreetMap?

The data that is available for hikers and cyclists, e.g. via Garmin maps

What are the biggest challenges for OpenStreetMap?

To bring the car navigation on the same level and to keep all data up-to-date

To conclude, is there something else you want to share with the readers?

Start simple. Take one topic, study the documentation and focus on that for awhile

Location: Peperstraat, Tienen, Leuven, Flemish Brabant, Flanders, 3300, Belgium
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