Mapper of the Month: Vucod (Belgium)

- Pierre Parmentier

His homepage and his contribution page.

Hello Vucod! Would you like to briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
My username is Vucod. I have been fascinated by maps since I was a child. Whether it’s to orientate myself in nature or to memorize them, they fascinate me. I am a regular hiker and the Ardennes is the destination where I practice the most.
How and when did you discover OpenStreetMap?
I discovered OpenStreetMap in 2018 during a Mapathon organised with MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières - Doctors without Borders). It was on this occasion that I made my first contributions.
How do you use OpenStreetMap?
I use OpenStreetMap for my daily travels and also to prepare hikes. To contribute to this, I open JOSM when I have big changes to make. Otherwise, I use iD which is very convenient and simple.
What kind of contributor are you and in which area do you map?
I would say that I am an occasional contributor. I usually map as a result of my travels. I also participate in import projects. Sometimes manually (free currencies) but also sometimes automatically (antennas, cameras). I mainly map in Brussels and Wallonia.
What are you mapping? Do you have a specialization?
I map a bit of everything. Lately, it has been a lot of GSM antenna masts. After importing all the GSM antennas from Belgium, there is a certain quantity of antennas to be checked. In Wallonia, this has already led to the discovery and mapping of dozens of masts. In the coming weeks, there will be a lot of surveillance cameras. Indeed, with friends, we will organise one or more cartographic walks on the theme of social control. So it will be the surveillance cameras, but not only. I will be providing more information soon and you can contact me on OpenStreetMap if you are interested!
What is your greatest achievement as a contributor?
I don’t think I’ve achieved any prowess. I did however create a little plugin for JOSM for which I didn’t get much feedback but which for me may be handy for some people. The plugin allows you to collect public information from a website (called microdata) when you add a web address as a tag. It’s very handy to add shops since in one click, you get the email, phone number, type of credit card accepted, opening hours,… and these are directly added as tags. Now, this doesn’t work for all websites. Only those that present these microdata. So, if the plugin arouses more interest, I will continue to develop it.
Why are you mapping? What motivates you?
Showing that a free and decentralized solution can compete with Google maps certainly motivates me. The pleasure of using beautiful, well detailed maps to find your way around in nature is another.
Do you have any ideas to expand the OpenStreetMap community, to motivate more people to contribute?
Group map walks are probably a good way to introduce more people to OpenStreetMap. Having regular or even monthly mapping themes could help bring people out of the usual OpenStreetMap circle. In particular by attracting people interested in these themes.
Do you have contacts with other mappers?
Yes, but at this time, only via the internet. Let’s hope that the physical OpenStreetMaps Belgium meetings will resume.
What is in your view the greatest strength of OpenStreetMap?
Its communities. They manage to federate contributors around common uses and they generate motivation. Not everything is perfect in their functioning but for me, they have an important part in the success of OpenStreetMap.
What is the largest challenge for OpenStreetMap?
I don’t know if it’s the biggest, but it’s certainly one that’s on the horizon. How do we position ourselves in relation to the progress of computer-aided mapping? Should we welcome it more in OpenStreetMap? Will local communities and contributors be able, in the face of the algorithms, to maintain control over the state of the map? Is there a risk of creating a dependency on these technologies? I don’t have clear-cut answers, but in my opinion, this is an important issue for the future of OpenStreetMap.
How do you stay on top of news about OpenStreetMap?
I follow some mappers and the discussion topic #OpenStreetMap on the Fediverse. I will also consult from time to time the OSM subreddit and the [weeklyOSM] newsletter(
To conclude, is there anything else you want to share with the readers?
It is impressive the work that has been done in a few years in OpenStreetMap in Belgium and I wonder what it will look like in 10, 15 or 20 years. Anyway, since I’ve been involved in it I’ve been enjoying it a lot. Finally, not so much by pursuing the objective of having a complete map but rather by taking an interest in our villages, our nature, our infrastructures and our society in general. I wish you a lot of fun while mapping.

Many thanks, Vucod, for this interview.

Translated from French by Pierre Parmentier