Mapper of the Month: Le Sharkoïste (Belgium)

- Pierre Parmentier


His homepage and his contribution page.

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

Why not? I am an 18 year old Belgian (almost 19 at the time of writing) living in Binche, a small town between Mons and Charleroi in Belgium. My mother tongue is French, although my English is very good. I use it every day on the Internet.

How and when did you get to know OpenStreetMap?

I don’t remember exactly when I discovered OpenStreetMap, but it seems to me to have discovered it while looking for alternatives to Google Maps, some of which were far less up-to-date with places of interest no longer existing, roads with old names, routes not possible. And above all they were generally designed for driving. My first contribution, in October 2020, was the addition of a nursery school that was not represented on the map.

How do you use OpenStreetMap?

I use it in several ways. On my phone with offline navigation apps such as OsmAnd, Guru Maps or Magic Earth, although the latter two update their maps … whenever they want, if I may say so. On PC with the official Carto website. But also on JOSM for — precisely — the modification of OpenStreetMap. I even learn new tricks with each use.

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

I’m a bit of a micro-mapper, meaning that I don’t skimp on details when I have the opportunity. As for the region I map, it’s mostly Belgium, but especially the Centre region, which stretches from Estinnes in the south to Braine-le-Comte in the north, since it’s the one I know best. Although nothing prevents me from mapping other regions with satellite and/or cadastral layers, among other sources.

What are you mapping? Do you have a specialisation?

I map a bit of everything, from buildings, to roads and access roads, to various places. For example, when I come across a shop that is not mapped, I add it with OsmAnd, including name, address, and possibly opening hours and contact info. However, I don’t specialise in any particular area.

What is your greatest achievement as mapper?

Redrawing all the buildings located in Binche — especially inside the ramparts —, as they used to be big blocks with no real attributes — apart from building=yes —, but also adding or updating a lot of places such as restaurants or shops, which were not present and that nobody thought of adding before me. A restaurant that hasn’t existed for years was still there!

Why are you mapping? What motivates you?

I’m mapping to show my interest in this area, as well as to help potential users of OpenStreetMap sooner or later, in terms of locations and other traffic routes. What motivates me is the feeling that I am doing something with my contributions, so I don’t just add anything.

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

I don’t have any in particular, except perhaps to spread the word — that OpenStreetMap exists — on forums, as well as on social networks. Not to mention YouTube videos with more or less in-depth tutorials such as iD or JOSM, for use outside Carto. Even if I know that people have already done or are doing this since the creation of the project.

Do you have contact with other mappers?

Yes, I am present on the Discord server OpenStreetMap World — in English, but good! But I don’t want to use Matrix just to chat with the Belgian community. However, if an OpenStreetMap Belgium Discord is set up — even if it’s just a bridge to the Matrix server — I will gladly join it.

What is in your view the greatest strength of OpenStreetMap?

In my opinion, it’s the community aspect, like on Wikipedia: if a piece of geographical information changes — a natural disaster, a road retracement or a restaurant closure, for example — the information can be added or corrected much more quickly than with private publishers, who often take months or even years to modify information. This can cause disruption, such as the TEC tram works in Liege, where one-way streets are changed almost daily.

What are the largest challenges for OpenStreetMap?

In my opinion, this would avoid the arrival of trolls from the Giant of online mapping, the G in GAFAM, you know it very well. For example, those who add restaurants named after memes or other tasteless jokes — such as the number 69 — in unlikely places, like in a desert. Or avoiding negative changes for purely political reasons, be it borders or camps.

How to do stay on top of news about OpenStreetMap?

I stay up to date with social networks. I follow the Twitter and Instagram accounts of OpenStreetMap, but also on the Discord OpenStreetMap World server, in the rooms dedicated to updates and other news and especially weeklyOSM/weeklyOSM. I also sometimes search for the keyword OpenStreetMap on news sites, you never know…

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

I have nothing to add in particular. If you want to contact me, log in to the OSM World Discord server, then look for someone called Sharko or The Sharkoist: that’s me. I don’t want to put my nickname in this interview, since the discriminator — the four numbers at the end — could change at any time.

Thank you, Sharko, for this interview.

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