Mapper of the Month: Søren Johannessen (Denmark)

- Pierre Parmentier

His homepage and his contribution page.

Hello Søren. Would you like to briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
I am living about 50 km outside Copenhagen in Denmark. My educational background is in Library and Information Science. For living I am working as an GIS consultant, which sometimes also including OpenStreetMap data as solutions for my clients. As an good example ― for Ballerup Municipality ―, I have done some import OpenStreetMap data regarding bicycle network, max-speed-zones, artworks, E-charging-stations, etc. into their PostgreSQL/PostGIS database.
How and when did you get to know OpenStreetMap?
I really can’t remember where and when I heard about OpenStreetMap for the first time ― but my OpenStreetMap account was made in 2007.
How do you use OpenStreetMap?
I use OsmAnd and maps for my Garmin eTrex for personal use. For work related items it’s about getting OpenStreetMap data from overpass turbo, GeoFabrik, QuickOSM or some routing data from places like OpenRouteService. My favourite feature from ORS is the isochrones for bicycles, this is very cool vizualizing stuff.
What kind of contributor are you and in which area do you map?
I consider myself as an all-round contributor. I have helped translating overpass turbo, iD editor and StreetComplete app into Danish. I have been writing an OpenStreetMap bicycle network/bicycle data import script and a minor Danish guide for the osm2pgsql tool. I have co-hosted several mapping parties. Recently here in October 2021, I did a survey on the bicycle network length in each 98 danish municipalities (1). I have been mapping in many areas of Denmark and some others countries.
What are you mapping? Do you have a specialisation?
I don’t know if this is a kind of specialisation topic ― right now at the moment I am mapping a lot of topics related to bicycle data and bicycle infrastructure ― stuff like surface, street light, bicycle ramps, cycle barriers. In the past I also did some Wikidata tags adding and artwork mapping.
What is your greatest achievement as mapper?
Well, it must be the OpenStreetMap teaching of about 100 members from the Danish Cyclists’ Federation in 2012. Five one day mapping courses in five different towns in Denmark was made. The major learning from this was, the older ones and retired people who participate : they ended up being the most contributing people. So when planning a mapping party, don’t forget this group of older people. In the other range of age, Peter Leth and I did hosting a mapping party with 30 pupils (age 13-14) plus two of their geography teachers on a Saturday evening back in 2016. This was also a huge pleasure and experience. I wish I have more time for teaching and setting up mapping parties.
Why are you mapping? What motivates you?
I take the idealistic approach here, meaning people have the right to geography knowledge and free spatial data. I support this idea by doing my mapping part of this great world wide project.
Do you have any ideas to expand the OpenStreetMap community, to motivate more people to contribute?
I have the last two years observed in Denmark that several new mappers comes to OpenStreetMap via the StreetComplete app. Some of them then also begins to use other editors very soon. It’s editors like iD/JOSM/Vespucci. Since StreetComplete is so easy to teach and don’t take so long time, this would be a way of growing the community fast. Mapping parties is of course the best way to introduce new ones to OpenStreetMap. However it takes several hours to setup, booking rooms, preparing teaching materials, travelling there, etc.
Do you have contact with other mappers?
From time to time I meet people at events or conferences or just on the street. But most contact is via DK-Talk mailing list. This COVID-19 lock-down has also stopped a lot of meeting people in persons.
What is in your view the greatest strength of OpenStreetMap?
The community! It’s amazing to think about that every month about 45 000 people world wide adding huge amount of content to the database. Regarding quality of OpenStreetMap data, I am personally very amazed by the quality of bicycle & hiking data for Denmark and Europe. The OpenStreetMap bicycle data has become the de facto data set and it is getting better day by day. Unfortunately in Denmark not many municipalities knows about OpenStreetMap, how they would use these bicycle data or making it better. I will add a final note here : in October 2021 I went to the “5th Cycling Research Board Annual Meeting” conference and it was very mind-blowing to hear seven talks from bicycle researchers, who has using OpenStreetMap data in some sort of way. Great to see that our mapping can be used by researchers too.
What are the largest challenges for OpenStreetMap?
I think it must be the urban and rural issue. Even in a small country like Denmark we see some sort of data bias in urban contra rural areas, meaning that minor geography objects e.g. bicycle ramps, artwork, steps, handrails, indoor sports-clubs etc. is lacking in rural areas of Denmark, because OpenStreetMap Denmark don’t have many editors outside the major urban areas. So getting more editors in rural areas is something, we in OpenStreetMap must be working on to solved. However this is huge and complicated task to figure out how to be solved.
How to do stay on top of news about OpenStreetMap?
weeklyOSM is a must read - Hashtag #openstreetmap on Twitter is also a good information resource. The Danish OpenStreetMap Talk-dk mailing list. OpenStreetMap Wiki is a great place to go into the details aka “What is best practice to map XX-object?” or finding tools. TagInfo Denmark, to see what kind of tags has been used and facts about how many objects of type XX have OpenStreetMap Denmark community been mapping so far.
To conclude, is there anything else you want to share with the readers?
I just want to say a huge thanks to the whole OpenStreetMap Community “You guys rocks!”. Looking forward in the future that comes to learning a lot more new from you on our journey to map the world. PS Don’t forget advocating OpenStreetMap every where you go.

Thank you, Søren, for this interview.

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

(1) Length survey of bicycle network in 98 danish municipalities