Mapper of the Month: Alouette955 (Canada)

- Pierre Parmentier


His homepage and his contributor page.

Would you like to briefly introduce yourself to our readers?

My first name is Claude. Being quite discreet, I hide my identity under the user name alouette955. This user name have been following me since the time of the BBS, which tells you my age. I am retired and live in the greater Montreal area. I like solitary activities such as cartography, genealogy and cycling.

How and when did you get to know OpenStreetMap?

In 2010 I had my first hiking GPS and I preferred free maps. I searched for a navigable map for cyclists and found the page from the OpenStreetMap wiki concerning the production of bicycle maps for Garmin from OpenStreetMap. I learned how to make my own maps and I quickly realised that data was missing and I realised that it was up to me to add it, it was just a matter of learning.

How do you use OpenStreetMap?

I’m a manual contributor in the sense that I don’t have the programming skills and I contribute to editors. I started with Potlatch 2 then rubbed myself with JOSM and then recently with iD.

What kind of contributor are you and in which area do you map?

I used the bike a lot to map my area which covers part of the CMM, Communauté Métropolitaine de Montréal. For the remote areas, I just correct incongruities and standardize attributes due to the fact that I work remotely.

What are you mapping? Do you have a specialization?

I have mapped a lot of bike lanes and then, a while ago, public transit lines in the northern and southern suburbs of Montreal. Both of these topics make a lot of use of OpenStreetMap relationships to describe networks. So I’ve developed a certain speciality in OpenStreetMap relations.

What is your greatest achievement as mapper?

What required the most effort from me was to work on importing bus lines from the EXO network. It was a very big job over a fairly long period. Unfortunately, this work deteriorated rapidly. Indeed, several well-meaning but less aware contributors to the fragility of relations edit them by ignoring them. I ended up collapsing under the number of breakdowns in relations that needed to be corrected.

Why are you mapping? What motivates you?

I like to participate in a project that is bigger than me. OpenStreetMap is an inexpensive activity in which you can get involved and which can have a great impact. It’s very accessible to anyone who puts some effort into it. Over time some contributors around me have sporadically asked me for advice. It’s a natural loop of mutual help.

Do you have any ideas to expand the OpenStreetMap community, to motivate more people to contribute?

I think that, just as it was in my case, a new contributor is first someone who has a need to fill and then slides into the role of contributor. I personally publish a Quebec cycling map for GPS Garmin and when I am told of an error or omission my reflex is not to correct it but to inform the user that he can do it himself and offer him my help.

Do you have contact with other mappers?

So little. Apart from requests for ad hoc advice, there are only a few contributors working on cycle lanes and transport networks that can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Attempts to set up local groups have unfortunately failed.

What is in your view the greatest strength of OpenStreetMap?

For me there is of course the excellent documentation when one has understood how to navigate through it, but above all the extreme patience and understanding shown by the experienced contributors one can turn to. I have never been made to feel like an intruder despite some beginner’s mistakes.

What are the largest challenges for OpenStreetMap?

In a large territory like ours with a low density of contributors the main challenge is updating. There are no eyes everywhere so it is difficult to be informed of the changes that have an impact on OpenStreetMap.

How to do stay on top of news about OpenStreetMap?

I receive the weekly summary of OpenStreetMap’s French version of WeeklyOSM.

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

It seems to me that I am talking to experienced contributors so I tell them to take their mentoring role seriously. Any novice needs this support to work well in OpenStreetMap. The quality of the contributions depends on it.

Thank you, Claude, for this interview.

Translated from French by Pierre Parmentier with the help of DeepL Translator.