Mapper of the month: Olivier Roussel

- Marc Gemis


Olivier Roussel, or Dagou on OpenStreetMap, is originally from Brussels, but lives for the moment in Arlon. He got a PhD in chemistry and works in a research and developement lab of a private company in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. OpenStreetMap is really a hobby for him.

When and where did you discover OpenStreetMap?

When I was writing my PhD thesis in 2006, I was using LaTeX, which is an open source programme for desktop publishing. Later on, I moved on to GNU/Linux, after that I started to use Wikipedia and finally I started to use OpenStreetMap. But all of this, without contributing back. I only started to contribute to OpenStreetMap in 2013, when I started to travel to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. In order to get to my job, I first took the train, followed by a bike ride to the industrial area. One of the roads in this area is reserved to public transport, cyclist and pedestrians. There was a S-shaped barrier, which could only be opened by the bus driver. When I drove by on my bike, I noticed numerous cars and trucks that had to make U-turn at the barrier, even when the “dead-end” was announced at the beginning of the street. People were blindly following their navigation system, which ignored or did not know about the barrier. OpenStreetMap had the same problem, and that is why I decided to become contributor: the small modification I had to make to prevent people from making a U-turn in front of a barrier. From then on, I learned more and more about the different tags and contribute more and more.

Are you using OpenStreetMap yourself?

I do not have a car with a built-in a navigation system, so I use OsmAnd+ on my mobile phone or tablet. Furthermore I regularly look at the map on OpenStreetMap.org. I use it rarely for my job. I only have to travel two or three times for work, and often to the same places. So I use OsmAnd more often for my vacations.

What type of mapper are you and where do you map?

I am a mapper that prefers to map what I have seen with my own eyes. And often, this are small details such as mailboxes, fire hydrants, benches, picnic tables, etc. but I also map buildings. In order to precisely map my observations, I use aerial images as well as GPS traces that I made with my mobile. The latter often requires multiple traces to obtain a good enough precision. I mainly work in both Luxembourgs (the Grand Duchy and the Belgian province). Furthermore I contribute in the part of the Auvergne where my family comes from, and where I spend several vacations. Finally I mapped a bit in Brussels and the places where I spend my holidays. But all of my contributions start by noticing a difference between the reality and the data in OpenStreetMap.

What is you biggest achievement as a contributor?

I certainly arrived a little late to OpenStreetMap to have made large achievements. The most important parts are already mapped. However, just like rivers are made from small streams, that my modest contributions, contribute to the big achievement, called OpenStreetMap.

Do you have ideas to grow the community?

I believe that a good contributor is a contributor that is motivated to make the map as correct as possible. Hence, the more OpenStreetMap is know, the more motivated people there will be that make corrections for mistakes they notice in their neighborhood. Thus to grow the community, we need more people visiting the OpenStreetMap-website. To accomplish this, we most likely need more visibility in the media.

What is the greatest strength of OpenStreetMap?

The greatest strength of OpenStreetMap is the network of contributors: each change is almost immediately noticed by someone that will make the change in the database. OpenStreetMap was very reactive when the pedestrian area in Brussels was enlarged, more reactive than the traditional mapping services. That really showed the strength of OpenStreetMap: the reaction upon changes of the real world.

What is the greatest challenge for OpenStreetMap?

For me, the biggest challenge for OpenStreetMap is trying to satisfy the needs of all contributors, from those wanting very precise data to those that only want general information. Another problem is to answer all the special needs without making the map reading too difficult. Therefore, there are several different ways to interpret the data: data for car drivers, cyclists, boat users, hikers, skiers, wheelchair users, etc. We need to find a way to help every visitor to find the right map for her needs, because, otherwise, she might never come back.

Do you have contact with other mappers?

I am not very social on the web, so I do not have a regular contact with other mappers. But, I do contact them in case I want to discuss a particular contribution.

To conclude, is there anything else that you want to share?

In case you have read this and still hesitate to contribute, please do not hesitate anymore: it is very rewarding to see the map, which is visible by the whole world, being updated by your own modifications. Do not forget to refresh the page in your browser though :-)