Mapper of the Month: Benoît Fournier (France)

- pietervdvn

Who are you?

I’m called Benoît Fournier, I live in France together with my family. I work in Paris or the region around it.

How and when did you discover OpenStreetMap?

I’ve discovered OpenStreetMap at the end of 2014: I needed an application on my mobile phone with offline, predownloaded maps. I wanted to have maps without having to use mobile data for cycle and hiking trajects. My search took me to OsmAnd and the OpenStreetMap-project. Slowly but surely, I made my first steps and discovered the elements of the OSM-universe: the data, the editors, the wiki, some map notes, my first message to other contributors, … soon followed by my first contributions, of which a few a bit reckless and contianed the necessary errors!

The openness of the project, the detail of the maps and the richness of the ecosystem really blew my mind at the time. Some specific tools come to mind (such as JOSM, iD, the Tasking Manager, maproulette or the other great tools), the documentation (the endless wiki, the tutorials), all the application and of course the infinite reuse of the data itself.

All that struck me as being extremely rich, exciting, sometimes still in heavy development but at the same time as being self-sufficient and all very open.

What do you map? Is there a difference with the start of your mapping?

I don’t map a specific subject. I often change tools and subjects, depending on how much spare time I have or what I like to do at the time.

I started with POIs and attributes for cycling navigation and cycling comfort, such as oneways, cyclelanes, speed limits. I’ve also mapped based on satellite imagery for CartONG or HOT.

Since 2017, I’ve also been using StreetComplete (on FDroid). Another difference since the start is that I use multiple accounts, depending on the editor and what subject I map. This is to preserve my privacy.

How do you map?

I map based on notes or memory for changes close to where I live. However, once I’m on my computer and if the task at hand becomes more complex, I use all the data that is available to me: aerial imagery, images taken from street level, the official ‘cadastre’-maps, … (note of the translator: France has an official dataset on all the buildings, called ‘cadastre’. OSM is allowed to use it and it is included as WMS into most editors)

How do you conduct your field surveys?

For a survey with a specific objective, I take notes and maps on paper. If it is organized in groups, Field Papers are very useful. For an oppurtunistic stroll, I rely on the applications StreetComplete mobiles (to complete the attributes by following the suggestions) or to add POIs.

Where do you map? Locally? Or remote for HOT?

I map in my vicinity, on the way to my work, during travels (but not activily if family is with me), but also remotely.

What is your biggest mapping achievement?

Adding all the levels to the Eiffel tower (OsmBuildings, and with the help of multiple other contributors: repairing my earlier mistakes ;)

Why do you map? WHat does motivate you?

I participate in OPenStreetMap to contribute to a common good, which attaches a lot of importance to the local expertise. It is motivating me twice, as I see both sides of the chain, by using all those tools myself as well.

Of course, I also know that all the other people can use the data as well, directly or indirectly in uncountable usecases for citoyens, organisations, NGO’s, corporations, administrations, …

What is the most difficult part of mapping?

The most difficult part is the first disrespectful and unsympathetic comment from an entrenched contributor (who has forgotten that everyone must make mistakes to get better).

Apart from that, the most difficult part is finding time, next to having a job, a family or another passion.

For those in a poor region, the most difficult part is finding a computer and an internet connection…

What are your mapping plans in the near future?

I’d like to convert more persons, have more female and male contributors because I think that a big participation is a good way to have more detailed and more up-to-date data.

Do you have contact with other cartographers?

Yes, I met most of them during events, locally or international (esp. State of the Map), but also in the Working Groups or in the active communities. And of course also via online communications such as mailing lists and forums.

Do you use OSM yourself? How?

I simply use OSM for the map and for navigation with my car, by foot or by bicycle. I also use it when I’m lost, when I want to plan or want to follow trajects or for geographic queries for me, my kids or my relatives…

Yes! And it is quite an important one for me: Since a few year, I participate in the French chapter and in the Working Group which organizes the State of the Map.

In the past, I also helped translating multiple OSM-tools such as documentation for new contributors (such as LearnOSM), participated in discussions (from the users standpoint) on how tools should be developed, held presentations, organized initiations for the public or organisations, and perhaps a few other aspects that I forgot about.

At last, are there other things you want to mention?

Exploration starts at your front door. We are all the local experts who could see the small details, the peculiarities and the changes in our neighbourhoods.

First, map for yourself, for your own pleasure, for your own use and to share. Then, map for others, map together with others. At last, let others map together with you.