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Belgian Mapper of the Month: Pierre Parmentier

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

Nederlandse tekst

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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)

Nederlandse tekst

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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: Hakendover, Tienen, Leuven, Flemish Brabant, Flanders, 3300, Belgium

Being a newbie

Posted by escada on 21 November 2014 in English (English)

This is story is based on real stories. It is not my story as a newbie, but I decided to write in the first person to avoid she/he discussions. Also, since English is not my native language, so I apologise upfront for mistakes.

I love to ride by bicycle and for plannng my trips I found those great free maps offered by OpenFietsMap. I used them during my vacation in The Netherlands and now I want to improve the map for cyclists in my hometown in Belgium.

I created an account on OpenStreetMap and quickly found out how I could launch the iD-editor. It seems pretty simple to add a separate cycleway, just as I saw on the map in The Netherlands. I think it is important to see the difference between street with and without those separate cycleways. So let's try to add them.

O great, there are arial images that I can use, so I do not have to upload tracks that I recorded with my GPS. OK, let's see, the cycleway starts here, in front of those houses. So I start drawing the line there and continue here, cross the street and it ends here in front of this parking lot. Now add some tags to it...mmm .. a name... mmm maybe "fietspad" (Cycleway in Dutch).

Ok, now the other side. Mmm, the houses that the previous mapper placed are on top of the cycleway. I'll move them so I can draw the cycleway in the correct place.

Hey, that was easy, let's save this so the others can enjoy my work. O, do I need to add a comment... mmm ... "Fietspad" will be ok I hope.

So far the first editing session from an newbie user as I see it. The user honestly tried to improve the map. But could you spot some mistakes ? Here are some

  • the cycleway is not connected at start or end
  • The cycleway has no intersection with the street that it crosses
  • It's tagged with a name that indicates its function
  • the user did not put bicycle=use_sidepath on the main street
  • the user did not remove any cycleway= from the main street
  • the user is unaware of relations for cycle routes on the main street that have to be placed (and splitted for the different directions) on the cycleways
  • the user did not add oneway=yes on the cycleway
  • using Bing images which have an offset, in Flandres we can use AGIV, much better

Not all of those mistakes are made by all newbies and maybe they make some I forgot to mention here. But that is not important for the message I want to bring. One can make many mistakes and none of the editors protect you from making no errors. Some editors protect you from some of the above errors, but many mistakes pass unnoticed.

But now dear experienced mapper,

How do you react when this happens in your neighborhood ?

Do you

  • yell "vandalism" ?
  • contact the DWG ?
  • start complaining on a local maling list about this user that destroys all this hard work ?
  • send a angry private message or changeset comment ?
  • do you ally with your friends to send multiple scaring changeset comments ?

or do you take a deep breath, relax and try to write a friendly, polite message to help this newbie navigate through all the pitfalls and unwritten rules from which the editors do not protect you ? Even if you have to do this for the tenth time ?

So think for a moment how it feels to be a newbie and receive a message from some stranger about something you honestly thought was a good addition to OpenStreetMap, next time you write a comment about someone else work. Heck, even when that person is a more advanced mapper.

Happy mapping & communicating

p.s. I fear that the real story that was the basis for this one does not have an happy ending

Rose garden

Posted by escada on 15 November 2014 in English (English)

After having mapped all sculptures in the Middelheim museum, umap of scultptures

I decided to start mapping the rose garden of the Vrijbroekpark in Mechelen. Rose garden Vrijbroekpark, Mechelen

However, there is no established tagging schema for this yet. I found e.g. landuse=flowerbed, a few landcover=flowerbed and natural=flowerbed. There are perhaps a few other schemes in use, but I could not find something that was really used a lot. So I decided to go for the following for the moment:

  • landuse=flowerbed
  • genus=rose
  • genus:nl=rozen
  • group:nl=...
  • variety:nl=...

it is pretty easy to change this in case someone points me to a better tagging schema. I have also made a small JOSM preset for personal use with those tags.

Since the dogs do not like the very slow pace needed to make notes and pictures, I only did a small part. No problem, we come there quite often, so next time we continue this work. One of the surveys in Middelheim, with the dogs

In the meantime I already made another map showing all the flowerbeds I mapped so far umap of Rose garden

Please drop me note in case you know a better way to tag the flowerbeds

Location: Vrijgeweidestraat, Mechelen, Antwerp, Flanders, 2800, Belgium

Interview: Mapper of the Month (Belgium)

Posted by escada on 7 November 2014 in English (English)

The Belgian community wants to put each month another mapper in the spotlight. The reason is that OSM would not exist without mappers. This mapper receives the title "Mapper of the month" and gets the chance to herself/himself through a small interview. There are not really criteria to become a "mapper of the month", besides that you map.

On the Belgian website you can find the article in Dutch and French together with some pictures.

Since we do not have an English section (yet) and I made the translation anyway, I decided to post it here. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Mapper of the month: Ben Laenen

Ben Laenen, in OpenStreetMap known under the username Eimai (pronounce /ˈimɛ/ like the Greek word είμαι), lives in Antwerp and is in his daily life a train conductor. During his studies he became active in the FOSS-world, now already a time ago. He is for example one of the people responsible for DejaVu Fonts, one of the standard fonts in several Linux distributions. The same font is also used in the main rendering engine of OpenStreetMap, Mapnik. As such, he is also active in the Libre Graphics community, more specifically in the typographic aspects.

How and when did you discover OpenStreetMap?

Suddenly OpenStreetMap was one of the projects that got additional attention from the open source community, which I already followed because of my involvement in DejaVu Fonts. I started to map in 2007, when there was almost nothing mapped in Belgium and the OpenStreetMap community was only a handful of people. As a little boy I was already interested in all kinds of maps. I could spend hours looking at atlases and printed maps. I even drew imaginary street maps myself. OpenStreetMap must have stirred up my interest in maps again!

How do you use OpenStreetMap?

Of course I use OpenStreetMap to plan my trips on a desktop computer, and with OsmAnd on my mobile phone, in Belgium and abroad. Professionally, it comes in handy, as railway installations can have quite complex structures and mapping those structures helps me to visualize them. Of course, we have the technical plans, but a view with the exact location of the rails is also very useful.

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

Currently, I belong to the category of armchair-mappers, so mainly using aereal imagery to map. But I try to verify what I map! When I go outside, I mostly go by bike, armed with a GPS and a voice recorder. Normally I edit within Belgium, although I edit abroad as well when a trip brings me over the border.

What do you map and do you have any specialization?

In the beginning there was not much choice, we had to start with the roads. After a while, when almost all roads in Antwerp were done, I started mapping bicycle routes and later on walking routes. The latter is especially interesting, you discover new, small paths, which would otherwise remain unknown. More recently, I am working on railway infrastructures, of course influenced by my job. I have been mapping a lot of different things over the years, but never really spend time on mapping points of interest (POIs).

Why do you map? What motivates you?

Why I map, simply because it's fun! And of course because it fits in my philosophy that FOSS and open data is a step forward. However, if it was not so enjoyable, I would have done something else. It is also rewarding that you discover interesting places, even close to home, places where you have never been and did not know they existed.

Do you do other things related to OpenStreetMap?

In the beginning I participated in a lot of discussions on the mailing lists. I also contributed a lot to the OpenStreetMap wiki to define how objects have to be tagged. Since most topics that interest me, have been sorted out, I became less active. But I still have some hobbyhorses , such as the mapping of paths in Belgium.

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

The main question is how you can attract people that have never heard of open data or open source. Most people stop looking for solutions once they encountered Google Maps. They often do not realise that alternatives exist, even those working with Google Map Maker. The only way to reach out to those people, is by increasing the visibility of OpenStreetMap in their world and in the media. Another possibility is to convince sites to use OpenStreetMap instead of Google Maps, but it is almost impossible to fight against a giant with completely integrated services.

What is in your view the greatest strength of OpenStreetMap?

The greatest strength is also one of its greatest weaknesses: the freedom you have while mapping. When you want to put a previously unknown concept on the map, you just create your own tags, and there it is! The problem is that others might have different viewpoints and want to map it in another way. This leads to a lot of discussions.

What are the biggest challenges for OpenStreetMap?

The first challenge is to keep the data up-to-date. As a mapper you need to notice that something changes in a street before you can update it on OpenStreetMap. The possibility to add notes on is a nice new tool to allow people, who are not into mapping, to point out changes. However, several blind spots where no one takes care of the necessary updates, they do exist. The second challenge, as already hinted in the previous question, is the issue about how we can come to a world-wide consistent way of mapping.

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

Looking back at all those years, I feel proud on what we have accomplished with OpenStreetMap. I was lucky to join the project early, and it was fascinating to see the map growing from an empty canvas to what it is now. Who knows where we will be within 10 years?

Location: Theaterbuurt, Antwerpen, Antwerp, Flanders, 2000, Belgium

Middelheim museum, Antwerp

Posted by escada on 27 October 2014 in English (English)

I have regularly visited the Middelheim museum in Antwerp. It is part of a park, free to visit, dogs are allowed (on the lead) and it's not too far away. Until 2 weeks ago I never bothered to map it. it was just of of those places that I visit.

Two weeks ago, we had a meetup in Antwerp. One of the topics we discussed was mapping the Antwerp Zoo. There I got the idea to map the museum in more detail.

So after 2 visits, I have mapped about 2/3 of the artwork (statues, sculptures, constructions). For each piece I recorded the name, the artist and the "construction" date as indicated on the information panels next to each item.

This is the map so far

I cannot add pictures of all items, as in Belgium we do not have freedom-of-panorama. I could have done it for older work, but I tend to forget the exact age.

I hope to add the last third with my next visit.

Location: Middelheim, Antwerpen, Antwerp, Flanders, 2020, Belgium

A little survey story

Posted by escada on 23 October 2014 in English (English)

The Belgian community is currently looking at some tools to import house numbers from the AGIV CRAB database. We are in an experimental phase, there is no formal go for the import yet.

Using the tool I saw a street in which I didn't collect house numbers so far. It was tempting to just copy the numbers. But since I needed to walk the dogs, I decided to pass through that street. So what did I discover during this short survey ? A zone 30, a memorial for Frans Abels (a composer 1899-1962), a missing path and a waste bin. It was just 10 minutes extra compared to our normal walk.

Conclusion ? For me it is not sufficient to just copy numbers from a database. It's better to go out for a walk with the dogs. Using this method I collect more diverse data en I learn something along the way.

Writing documentation for import

Posted by escada on 15 November 2013 in English (English)

Recently I've been working on some documentation in preparation of a house number import for Flanders. Mapping is more relaxing than this :-) The first version can be found on A more extensive document, with more details for mappers is constructed under

After the first feedback from the Belgian community, I'll try to describe some more complex scenario's for merging the data.

Location: Clemenshoek, Reet, Rumst, Antwerp, Flanders, 2840, Belgium

Google Hangout as communication between mappers

Posted by escada on 4 October 2013 in English (English)

== English version below ==

De eerste sessie is afgelopen. Samen met Eric & Gilbert over een aantal plugins, presets en kaarttekenstijlen gegaan en de building configuration. Verder vooral de nadruk op het toevoegen van gebouwen en huisnummers. We hebben alledrie weer wat bijgeleerd !

Een toffe manier om te communiceren met mensen die wat verder wonen. Voor herhaling vatbaar.

The first session is over. Together with Eric & Gilbert we talked about our JOSM configuration (plugins, presets, map styles, building configuration). Most of the time was spend on efficient ways to draw buildings and housenumbers. There was something new for the three of us.

A nice way to communicate with people that live further apart. Will be repeated.

Meeting at ESI, Brussels

Posted by escada on 4 October 2013 in English (English)

I gave 2 talks (or 1 big one if you wish :-) ) during the meeting at ESI in Brussels yesterday. I promised to send out the links to the slides, so here they are

The State of the Map Belgium:

The one on mapping:

Feel free to contact me in case you have questions. The first talk gives a long list of websites to get an idea about the completeness and quality of the code, as well as some fun, interesting topic maps. The second one attempts to give an overview of the different mapping types, but the demos where more important.

This evening will try to setup a google hangout (in Dutch) to exchange tips and tricks on using JOSM. It will be the first time that we'll do this so it will be a nice learning experience with hangouts as well. I'll post the URL between 19u30 and 20u00 to the Belgian mailing list. You need to install a browser plugin to follow.

I would like to thank Nicolas and ESI for organizing and hosting the meeting yesterday. I enjoyed meeting the other people (and even giving the talk :-) )

Location: European Quarter, Brussels, Ville de Bruxelles - Stad Brussel, Brussels-Capital, French Community, Brussels-Capital, 1000;1040, Belgium

Python for data creation

Posted by escada on 22 July 2013 in English (English)

Normally I do my surveys with a Garmin GPS and make notes using waypoints. Those waypoints and the corresponding track can be loaded in JOSM. In order to update OSM, one still need to manually create nodes and add tags to them.

So I wrote a Python script that does part of this work. It converts the waypoints that I make into OSM points. I can then easily integrate those nodes with the existing data, without have to create notes or add tags.

The script recognizes the waypoints with the following formats:

- VB  for amenity: waste_basket  (Vuilbak)
- BK  for amenity: bench (Bank or Zitbank)
- FIREH for emergency: fire_hydrant
- M50/M70/Z70/Z30/Z50 for maxspeeds (Z for zones)
- PIKNIK for tourism: picnic_site
- WSS [name] for historic: wayside_shrine
- CDC for power: cable_distribution_cabinet
- ESS for power: sub_station
- STOP/GW  for highway: stop / give_way
- LLI/RLI for highway: street_lamp
      barrier: bollard / kissing_gate, swing_gate, swing_gate, gate, cycle_barrier
- house number notations, e.g. R10, L10-12, L10+-+20, L10+12---13+15
- PB 1445 for bpost post_box with (last) collections_times Mo-Fr 14:15
- GLB for recycling glass bottle container (Glasbol)
- TXT for recycling clothes contains. Some operators are recognized as well WMS, VICT, ...

Since I am also interested in mapping protected buildings in Flanders, I often use the data that wikipedia has on this topic. An example can be found here.

Until this weekend, I manually located the building and added the necessary tags via a JOSM preset. On my previous diary entry someone suggestion using a toolserver service to obtain a kml-file with all the nodes.

It looks nice, but not all data from the wikipedia page was kept. So I wrote another small Python script to parse the wikipedia page, keeping as much data as possible (the image tags, the heritage flag, the URL). Furthermore I added some tags that are specific for buildings listed by the Flemish Onroerend Erfgoed institute.

I'm willing to send the scripts to anybody that asks for it. Note that I'm not going to fix bugs or implement additional features, but you can do that if you want.


Posted by escada on 19 July 2013 in English (English)

Using the heritage list of protected buildings and monuments of wikipedia, I managed to map all such buildings in Mechelen en Lier.

The result can be viewed on the geschichtskarten, e.g. Lier

Up to the next town. Antwerp ?


Posted by escada on 21 June 2013 in English (English)

Did a walk in Ruisbroek yesterday evening. Got even more housenumbers to put in OSM. Also found that 'Leuk' (street) was split in smaller roads with different names. According to some newspaper website, this was already done in Q1, 2011.

Weird that I didn't notice this when I visited the place last summer (or was it the summer before that ?)

Location: Leuk, Ruisbroek, Puurs, Mechelen, Antwerp, Flanders, 2870, Belgium
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