Mapper of the Month: s8evq (Belgium)

- Pierre Parmentier


His homepage and his contribution page.

Hello Pieter. Would you like to briefly introduce yourself to our readers?

I am Pieter and map under the name s8evq. I live in Aalter, Belgium. I teach adults and so I am working with OpenStreetMap just as a hobby. I have no GIS background but have always found maps fascinating.

How and when did you get to know OpenStreetMap?

When travelling, we often use OsmAnd for hikes. During a hike in Gran Paradiso, Italy, there was a mistake in the navigation. I wanted to correct it myself. After some searching I came to osm.org. I could not solve the problem myself via the editor, so I left a note. I was surprised that I got an immediate response and that the problem was solved very quickly. Back home, I delved deeper into OpenStreetMap.

How do you use OpenStreetMap?

Often via OsmAnd for hikes and bike tours, or various websites for route planning and preparation. They are the most detailed maps available.

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

I try to make contributions in East and West Flanders. I often improve paths in nature reserves. I also add missing hiking trails. At the moment I’m also working on keeping the long distance paths (GR) in Flanders up to date and I’m working together with Grote Routepaden VZW. I also try to keep our wiki pages up to date and add to them regularly. Especially the pages about our local Belgian traffic laws and how we translate them to OpenStreetMap. I also read and respond to e-mails sent to community@osm.be. These regularly receive questions from people outside the OpenStreetMap project.

What are you mapping? Do you have a specialisation?

Too many different projects at the same time. But very concretely, in the coming days, I will be fine-tuning the long-distance hike GR5A, which is very popular in Belgium. Specialisation may be a big word, but I do have a clear focus on hiking route relations.

What is your greatest achievement as mapper?

I find this difficult to say. We all add little improvements that make up a nice whole. But if I could pick one thing out of the list, I would be happy about my work on the hiking route wiki pages. After much discussion on the tagging mailing list, we managed to align the different hiking wiki pages and come up with a uniform tagging scheme. This is now used in a wiki template.

Why are you mapping? What motivates you?

I simply enjoy participating in the larger project, knowing that many people will benefit from the map material.

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

I read and respond to emails that people send to the Belgian OpenStreetMap community. From this I notice that many people do not understand the principle behind OpenStreetMap. By the principle I mean that OpenStreetMap is just the database, and that different data users can present the data in their own way. Therefore, I think it really is time to give the osm.org front page an update. Contributor Juminet made a very clear diary post about this a while back. It’s not easy to find your way as a new user in all those different tools and websites and projects. I believe that this is why many new mappers drop out. That’s why, for me, everything could be organised a bit more centrally within OpenStreetMap. But I know that not everyone thinks so. I also strongly believe in the local community and building good contacts through meetups. If a new mapper has somewhere to go with questions, they are less likely to drop out.

Do you have contact with other mappers?

Yes, often. Frequently. Through our strong Belgian community. We have a very active Matrix channel. Our meetups also strengthen the bond and show the real people behind the user names. In the beginning, I asked a lot of questions and learned very quickly. Now we very often discuss tagging schemes or local problems and quickly reach a consensus. I feel that consensus is reached much faster on a local level, than on an international level (like through the tagging mailing list for example).

What is in your view the greatest strength of OpenStreetMap?

The openness of the data. The fact that we can deliver an open, free product that is more detailed than that of the commercial players.

What are the largest challenges for OpenStreetMap?

Keeping the entered data up to date is not always easy. Fortunately, with StreetComplete you can now very easily add the date of the last check. Another challenge is to provide a pleasant environment for new mappers, where people are not afraid to make mistakes.

How to do stay on top of news about OpenStreetMap?

I sometimes read weeklyOSM and various mailing lists. But I certainly do not read everything on those mailing lists.

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

I would recommend every mapper to get in touch with his local community. It is more fun when you know you are working on a project together!

Thank you, Pieter, for this interview.

Translated from the Dutch by Claire Muyllaert and Pierre Parmentier with the help of www.DeepL.com/Translator.