Mapper of the Month: Michel Hebert (France)

- Pierre Parmentier

His homepage and his contribution page.

Hello Michel. Would you like to briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
I am a retired man - three quarters of a century old - and the current president of an association in my town that has nothing to do with OpenStreetMap. I practice cycling for fun and to stay in shape, and I have been a member of the local OpenStreetMap group in Grenoble for several years. I am not a computer scientist but I pay a particular attention to this environment.
How and when did you get to know OpenStreetMap?
Several years ago and practicing cycling I wanted to put a track on my GPS, track created from a routing application which then presented problems of blocking at a particular point on OpenStreetMap. Curious I wanted to know more about OpenStreetMap to solve these problems, and this was my first step in the OpenStreetMap universe and to make my first contributions. And as I was relatively active I was contacted by a local member from the Grenoble area. A map party in the municipality of Vif was the starting point for meeting enthusiasts and contributing in all practical and material aspects at a time when smartphone applications did not exist.
How do you use OpenStreetMap?
Quite quickly I found an interest in using JOSM and learned to master it correctly, and to parameterize it for more efficiency by associating several plugins. So I can take advantage of the French cadastre which allows us to import very locally all the buildings, private pools, rivers etc. JOSM is therefore my favourite working tool.
What kind of contributor are you and in which area do you map?
My areas of contribution are quite disparate according to my evolving interests. I favour my region, or my holiday spots. But attentive to the French forum, I engage in specific contributions on the whole French territory and in the course of these explorations I often update the landuses and buildings that the IGN imagery and the Cadastre allow me to source.
What are you mapping? Do you have a specialisation?
I don’t have a specialization, but rather interests that have evolved over the years and new sources. When I started, I discovered a site that allowed me to monitor the geolocalized data of the French Ministry of Education of all the schools in the department of Isère, a whole job of verifying geolocation and adding references. I have participated in several cartoparties organised by our local group in Grenoble, which I consider important and motivating for the vitality of our team. I currently spend a lot of time updating postal addresses in France using databases that facilitate this task, as well as following up on new roads in my department of Isère.
What is your greatest achievement as mapper?
A few years ago there was a change in the OpenStreetMap license; all the contributors had to agree to this change. Some did not respond and all their tracks were cancelled except the nodes. Thus all the trails in a large protected area south of Grenoble called the Frange Verte had to be updated. Equipped with an Garmin Oregon GPS with integrated camera I walked the area for several months confirming the passage of the nodes for the path and track. But also thanks to the geolocalized photos I was able to trace the new trails. It is probably more than 50 km of tracks which were updated; a real satisfaction as an OpenStreetMap mapper.
Why are you mapping? What motivates you?
To contribute to the enrichment of the global commons that OpenStreetMap represents. The mapathons to which I contributed are one of the richest aspects on a personal level, especially Madagascar, which I have immersed myself in. I am permanently motivated because the improvements and enrichments of the database are varied and almost perpetual. My curiosity is the driving force. For example, checking the geolocation of transformers in the field and specifying their name, reference and type. Field work that takes me to unlikely places.
Do you have any ideas to expand the OpenStreetMap community, to motivate more people to contribute?
With our local group in Grenoble, we hope to motivate local people by organising mapping parties. During our monthly meetings that the Grenoble local group organises, the leader checks all the new contributors in the area and invites them to these meetings. And sometimes we are surprised by the number of curious people who arrive with disparate motivations. I think we should introduce them to the basic iD and JOSM tools.
Do you have contact with other mappers?
Yes, of course, since I have been a member of the Grenoble local group since its inception, and our monthly meetings are very often enriching. And sometimes when I receive a response to the notes I have posted on OpenStreetMap.
What is in your view the greatest strength of OpenStreetMap?
It is certainly the large variety of contributors who, on the planet, bring this database to life, each with his own more or less advanced technical level. A database that is enriched every day with a constantly evolving level of detail, thanks to exchanges via the forums. Each country can express what characterises it through its own sources.
What are the largest challenges for OpenStreetMap?
It is to preserve and protect its model and to guard against any interference in its authorities.
How to do stay on top of news about OpenStreetMap?
There is no lack of sources that I consult every day: Talk-fr, Forum OSM France and weeklyOSM.
To conclude, is there anything else you want to share with the readers?
Whatever your level of involvement and technique, you can always make your contribution, even if it is minor. It is curiosity that should be your inspiration and the conviction to participate in something useful.

Thank you, Michel, for this interview.

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