Mapper in the Spotlight: Lutz Lange (Germany)

- Marc Gemis


One of my favorite maps based on OpenStreetMap data is the Historic Places map. I have been contributing several pieces of data that show up on this map, as well as helping a bit with the translation. During those tasks I met Lutz, one of the people behind this map. So it is with great pleasure that I can present this interview with him.

Who are you?

My name is Lutz Lange, and I live in a 1000 year old city in Saxony, one of the most beautiful regions of Germany. Professionally, I am an electrician on construction sites throughout Germany on road.

When and how did you discover OpenStreetMap?

In 2006 I was informed via the former German Mapping project maps4free about OSM. I was immediately impressed by the simplicity of the model, that allowed to create a on-line map with only a handful of key / value pairs. The motivations to join, where of course the expensive maps and software for my Palm.

What you map?

Currently, I prefer to map historical items, buildings and stones that tell a story. During the first few years, I mapped everything I came across. I do not do this anymore.

How you map?

At this moment the camera and GPS of my smartphone are my main tools to collect data. For trips that are well planned in advance (unfortunately very rare) I use another GPS logger and a Dashcam for data recording. From the start I use JOSM for editing. It is impressive to see how this has become a professional tool. From time to time I check my neighbourhood with KeepRight, OSM Inspector and Notes for errors and hints.

Where you map?

Mostly in my local area, the border region of Saxony, Saxony Anhalt and Brandenburg. But because of my work, I also come in other states where I can do on-site surveys. Occasionally, I am a couchmapper, rummaging in Historic.Place.

What is the biggest challenge as a mapper?

To be able to come back home from trip without notes. Knowing your own limitations in editing and leave some objects alone…

Personally I do not map 3D, TMC or public transport data. Not that I do not map those features, but because I did not understand the tagging schemas immediately and I do not have time to learn them.

Why do you map, what are your motives?

The original reason, that maps are expensive, no longer holds. It is rather a pleasant counterweight for the physical work in the daytime job. Also, I’m not the guy who wants to ride against himself or the time on a bicycle. OSM is a good reason, to enjoy a relaxing walk and discover something new along the way that can be mapped later on.

What is the most difficult part of mapping?

Taking care of what was mapped before. E.g. dealing with something that was easily recognized as a grade3-track years ago, but is now rapidly becoming an overgrown path; telephone booths that were dismantled; businesses or companies that no longer exist; etc.

Do you have any plans for what you want to map the future?

There are still many historical objects to be rediscovered.

Do you have any contact with other mappers?

Yes, once a year there is a meeting with a few mappers from the surrounding area.

Furthermore, there is plenty of e-mail traffic related to the Historic.Place-map.

Do you use OpenStreetMap yourself?

OsmAnd is my loyal companion on my smartphone.

I have my hands full as team member of Historic.Place, a little OpenStreetMap-based Web application.

Can you tell us something about this map?

That will probably a long story. Once upon a time, ……………

Well, it actually began when another mapper (Radler59) started mapping the border stones of the Kingdom of Saxony and the Kingdom of Prussia, which dates back to 1815. There was already a map showing border stones, made by user Lübeck.

However, in a short period, many border stones were added in Saxony. This made the map very slow to load. When I started to look at ways to create my own map, I stumbled upon OpenLayers-guru Netzwolf. Not only does he write excellent code, he also makes it available free of charge to others.

And so, the first historical map was born around 2012. It was still based on the Overpass API.

The first historical map

This was quickly followed by a milestone and “Sühnekreuz” map, and the idea to create a map that displays historical features. When implementing this idea, I had the good fortune that Wolfgang (Netzwolf) cared personally about the development of the map. With a pioneer and thought leader in terms of OSM on board, the relevant philosophy and style of the map was coined. As an example, it had to be possible to customize the card to meet the needs of the user, and not the other way around…… I learned a lot in terms of software, Internet and as a human from Wolfgang. Hereby, I would like to take the opportunity to thank him for this. Even nowadays, when there is a problem, we can still count on him.

Milestone Map

The map quickly became a “self-perpetuating”, and found a broad support from around the world when it comes to ideas, key / value description in the wiki, translations etc.

Carsten (Zecke) and René (Reneman) are the other “Full-time” team members of Historic.Place. Carsten en René are responsible for the development of the software behind the map. I take care of the georeferencing and the creation of Tiles old maps as a background layer.

We still want to implement many ideas, for example the Life Cycle Concept.

Any help or support is always welcome. For example, we could use someone to design the webpage and new icons for the map.

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

Do not take yourself and your OpenStreetMap hobby too seriously, because actually we’re all just farts in the wind.

Thanks a lot, Lutz for this interview and the history of Historic.Place, I really like some of your ideas that we do not have to take ourselves serious and that we should not map what we do not understand.