Mapper of the Month: Dasrakel (Belgium)

- Pierre Parmentier

His homepage and contributor page.

Hello. Would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Karel, online is Dasrakel. I live and map in Roeselare, Belgium. My first experience with cartography was using GIS and the Google Maps API on the internship of my education MCT. I work as a programmer / IT professional. OpenStreetMap is completely separate for me, it’s one of my hobbies.
How and when did you get to know OpenStreetMap?
I am pretty well versed in free software, I use it and have helped with translations. I came across OpenStreetMap through that, how or where I don’t remember exactly. I do remember that it was quite popular with people trying to avoid Google. I also cultivated an appreciation for accessible licences and allowing people to contribute anonymously.
In the beginning, I mapped buildings based on Bing satellite photos. That also worked, but with JOSM and the GRB — the Large-scale Reference File or Base map of Flanders — it is now much easier to make good contributions. I have also gone back to those first places to improve my own contributions. They were not wrong, but I can do better now.
How do you use OpenStreetMap?
I use OsmAnd, both on foot and by car.
What kind of contributor are you and in which area do you map?
Generally much everything and micro-mapping in Roeselare.
When I feel like it and it’s not raining I go out and do my survey of a street that hasn’t been done yet. That comes down to walking and writing down everything I come across in text on my phone with a lot of abbreviations. Most of my contributions are based on this.
What are you mapping? Do you have a specialisation?
The streets themselves were already largely complete and are also being updated quickly. I’m mostly working on buildings, paths, shops, and the small details like a parking meter or bench. I started with one street and kept adding another block. I can go on endlessly, but it is also literally further and further from my door, of course.
I don’t work thematically but per block or street and then I do everything that strikes me. During a survey, I see a heritage blue shield emblem hanging on a façade, then I tag heritage as well. Nice big tree on a square? If I recognise the species, I tag it in Latin.
With the wiki at hand, most things are pretty simple. There are many mappers who only contribute in a specific theme. I trust them to make sure these tags are well and logically defined. For mappers who do everything, it’s just apply, and we’ll take care of it. There are also some things that I cannot do. Entering the height of a building is easy, but I can’t do it with a tape measure.
What is your greatest achievement as mapper?
In one year, I have added many buildings and details of Roeselare. Doing a street by street survey and then mapping. The map was not empty before I arrived, it is clearly much more complete, and the renders have become nicer too.
What motivates you? Why do you map?
I map because I know that someone will benefit from it. You don’t always find everything on all maps, at least with OpenStreetMap I can add it myself. By mapping it, I know the streets by name and I know little corners that I would never get to otherwise.
It’s also nice to see unexpectedly, and preferably on paper, a map of which I have drawn a part.
Do you have any ideas to expand the OpenStreetMap community, to motivate more people to contribute?
Indirectly, by promoting the use of the map and data. I also think about speaking at or organising workshops at events that are less about OpenStreetMap. I also started on my own.
Do you have contact with other mappers?
Not very much, just the occasional comment or post in OpenStreetMap itself. When I was mapping the centre a bit faster, Tim contacted me to help, and to agree on who would map what. But that’s the only time I really worked together.
I go sometimes on Matrix. I have not been to any meetings yet.
What is in your view the greatest strength of OpenStreetMap?
It is very flexible, and not only that open license. We invent new tags or values when we need them. That’s why there are so many applications. You can just as easily make a map with surveillance cameras, one for blind people, as one for Minecraft.
What is the largest challenge for OpenStreetMap?
A map is logically very location-specific. So we need an interested person in every village who wants to help.
How do you stay on top of news about OpenStreetMap?
Rather what I happen to come across. Sometimes I read a blog, the subreddit or Matrix. For mapping itself, it’s not really necessary to keep up to date, as long as you use the wiki.
To conclude, is there anything else you want to share with the readers?
Thank you to everyone who helps. The little bit helps too. Even if you don’t draw, a map comment or MapComplete will also make the map better.

Thank you very much, Karel, for this interview.

Translated from Dutch by Claire Muyllaert and Pierre Parmentier with the help of