Mapper in the Spotlight: Nick (Netherlands)

- Marc Gemis

Who are you?

I am a casual mapper with an interest in old military lines. I live in the middle of the New Dutch Water Line and noticed that this potential cultural heritage is found barely in OSM. The famous Low Lands Forts with lunettes and redoubts that were made in the Low Countries, with details such as shelters, locks and bridges. For locks, I would just point to Nieuwpoort for a representative example. Nieuwpoort Professionally, I made specifications and drawings in addition to writing policy and opinion pieces. I am one of those that introduce a new parking permit with a smile and if you protest against the costs, says, yes you can complain, but not at this 2 year old act. The nice thing is that if you are not covered by the license, you can not object. But that explanation is accepted, that helps ;-)

My Hobbies:

Camping in summer and winter in the José Happart region of the High Fens and the lowlands along The Scheldt, cross country skiing (Telemark). Furthermore LEGO educational building with as crown jewel, the participation at the now 14 years old Lego World. I have a complete collection of topographic maps of both the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as historical maps from 40-45, which are printed on both sides, (because the paper was scarce). * Furthermore I have some maps from other countries from different continents in different scales. I use those maps to hike, bike and review. Sometimes I end up with a walking guide, wet from the rain. Beautiful are the GPS-less hints of the Antwerp author Flips in the series Green Tuesdays, where you are out there without coordinates. Unfortunately none of those maps and books (among others some from Julien Van Remoortere that are published by Lannoo cannot be used for OSM. What made me smile was that Van Remoortere mentioned that the start was at the railway station, not to encourage people to take the train, but just because he wanted a parking space for the car. My nickname is a coincidence, if you sign up you must specify a pseudonym. I ended up with the concatenation of the first names of two brothers.

When and how did you discover OpenStreetMap?

For a pleasure trip along the Meuse River from its source on the plateau of Langres I bought a Garmin GPS with French maps. My first GPS was inaccurate, so a paper map and compass or a simple analog clock were more helpful to get to your destination. In the deep forested valleys of the Rockies arose the desire to have a GPS, but among the tall trees, 20 years ago a GPS didn’t really work. Garmin sends you to to for maps, so that is how I got here.

What do you map?

Mapping has quite a learning curve and demands an open mind, as you get hints or just simple messages like “did you know that your contributions were removed behind your back?”. You need an elephant skin. OSM is all about friendly liberty, but still tries to keep everyone under control somehow. I can’t really talk about the past. Some of us are here since 2007, so I’m still a newbie compared to that.

I work on Lines, military fortifications. There are about 40 here in Holland. Grebbelinie, NHWL and Raam-Peellinie are already pretty good. But I also work on more recent structures from WWII, and bridges, locks and dams. The Polders (example are also an undermapped area, because of the lack of roads. After remote mapping, I go surveying with my canoe - not easy, because the little streams and canals are often quite muddy.

How do you map?

From the above, you can deduce that I get almost all my data from surveys. Only when I participate in an HOT event, everything is based on aerial mapping and that requires some improvisation. One survey keeps me busy for almost 4 evenings. The drive forth and back alone gives me 2 tracks. Add the benches, waste bins, individual trees, surfaces, gates, fence etc. and you understand how much work it is. “Space for the river”, or “Ruimte voor de Rivier is a zoning plan to improve living near the river. Surveys for one river arm, costs me half day walking through the greasy clay, if I do not get stuck. The width of the water varies from 2 meter and fordable, to 200 meters due to high and low tide.

NW from the A2 bridge

Another example of how I surveyed the area north-west of the A2 motorway bridge. [link?] The tools: Boots, sturdy shoes, Garmin 62s, a tape measure (3,5 - 8,50), tape (10 - 50.00 m), chalk and a compact camera and GPS on AA batteries. Afterwards the camera’s memory is filled with 600 pictures for hours of mapping work. Furthermore I use an old-fashioned notebook, for additional details of items that you cannot photograph properly, e.g. because of shadows. The measured values can be used to check the GPS coordinates (JOSM). My PC is a 5 year old laptop with two external hard disks for 2 GB [really?] of backup and data. The PC is sometimes in the back seat of the car to empty the GPS in order to distinguish between items later on. I also have a bike on a rack on the car.. You can do a lot while you’re on a bike,. You can approach people better than by driving up someone’s land with a car. In case there is no one to talk to, you still have recorded the area with your GPS. For mapping, I now use JOSM with many useful tools. Therefore my usage of Potlach2 has lessened, but I still use it for a quick look.

Where your map? Local, HOT, MapRoulette, Railroad Roulette?

Typically I map in my own region, but actually I map wherever I go. But the focus remains on the Netherlands. But you can find it out yourself when you consult Pascal Neis’ tools. you will see exactly what I’m doing where Or look at my current OpenStreetMap residence New Cairo City, District 5 where I live for another project. By changing the location on my account page, I actively seek Egyptians nearby to form an Egyptian mapping group.

I sometimes work with Maproulette, a nice game for lost moment.

The last fort which I mapped upon request was Everdingen. The sister fort Honswijk on the right bank is on the agenda to be mapped these days.

What are you most proud of as a mapper?

The amount of detail that has gradually crept in. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to sour remarks such as “why is our database growing so big? “ or “It doesn’t fit on my machine anymore”. But I wonder why should we stop adding those details. You can use a smaller selection of the data when it no longer fits on your machine. We all try to build / create a good and reliable “map”. An up to date map I might add, something the Dutch government has now also discovered. And it is not just the route network that is already finished. The Dutch cadastre now uses an OSM map for their BAG viewer, which is a nice example of cross-pollination between OSM and the Government.

Why do you map? What motivates you?

Well, I just rolled into it and I see that there is still much to do. A small contribution for the use of the OSM data in the future. The visual result that you leave and that others can look at. What discourages me? Sour little constructive criticisms or the avalanche of comments that you sometimes get as a mapper on the forum. You have to be a strong person to stand up against that. Otherwise you will soon get fed up and leave the community. I enjoy it when I see someone coming back up and become active again after a period of inactivity. I think those negative people are everywhere and we should try to just ignore them.

What is the most difficult in the mapping process?

The learning curve in OSM. I started with Potlach 2, which is easy, requires no download, and can be learned on your own. I was then contacted by a nice mentor, who hinted me at JOSM. Thanks to the mentor I saved a lot of time in learning JOSM. It has many useful tools, I especially like its validation mechanism. But there is a steep learning curve as the wiki warns for.

What are your plans for the near future?

I’m in Vianen, working at the last residential area, but there is still some fine tuning to do, because over time I added more and more details. And working from A(lmelo) to Z(aandam). The above-mentioned lines and gas wells are also currently on the list but that cannot be finished over night. I would call myself a micro-mapper, although that term is used in a derogatory way on the Dutch forum.

Do you have contact with other mappers? How?

Yes, I once started out on a project with direction signs, but with the imminent import of Rijkswaterstaat, this data will be added anyhow. The Grebbelinie, we mapped with 3 mappers. I gave a presentation in 2014 about the use and nature of the BAG imports. I also visit the New Year get-togethers of the GEO group during which I meet other mappers as well. The HOT meetings are also mixed GEO and OSM.

Grebbelinie by H. Bot CC-BY-SA-2.5 H.Bot

I have occasional contact with other mappers by mail, via the Forum or in person. And here and there there are some distant friends in OSM, a global network, for what it’s worth. This network is grown by asking friendly questions about local problems. So I ended up “living” in Cairo and have forgotten to reset. On the forum I see myself as a lurker. But communication on Q & A, is not really “having contact” in my opinion, just like reading the group Tagging, Talk and other postings. Before you know it you read and react too much and you end up without time to map. The problem of social media: being available 24/7. That does not work for me, I determine when and where I am available, and that is certainly not during lunch and my phone is not under my pillow at night. A problem can easily wait, as long as it is not a flood or fire.

Use your OpenStreetMap itself? How?

I use it in my spare time, while I’m surveying or as data source. I don’t really need it to prevent me from getting lost, there is too much water in The Netherlands :-).

Do you do other things besides mapping?

I am helping out on the forum and help website. I do not program, the PC is there for me and not vice versa. But I try to promote OSM whenever possible.

To conclude, is there anything you would like to mention?

It would be nice to try to find out if and why someone stops contributing to OpenStreetMap