Belgian mapper of the month: Julien Fastré

Can you introduce yourself ?

I have several occupations, and I appreciate that they are in very different domains, althought, it might be tiresome from time to time:

  • I am a software developer at Champs-Libres, where a part of the activities is related to geography. We regularly use data from OpenStreetMap. We also install tile server, Nominatim, etc. Officially this is supposed to be a part-time job, but in reality, it takes much more time.
  • I studied journalism, but after my studies I've always been a community worker. I also work part-time as coach for unemployed women at a feminist association.
  • I have been (and sometime I am still) active in several different associations and movements such as GRACQ, which defends the rights of cyclist, de scouts, some unions, ...

Last, but not least I am a father and I love spending a good part of my life on that !


How and when did you discover OpenStreetMap ?

Purely by accident, in an article of the magazine of GRACQ. It got me inspired to continue. Back then, I started contributing with the things that interested me the most at that time: cycle routes and infrastructure for cyclists.

Do you use OpenStreetMap yourself ?

I need it almost every 2 weeks to localize the office of a customer, or to find my way around a different neighborhood. I am using my smartphone with OsmAnd more and more for this purpose.

I also use the data in my profession: both for our TMS-servers and for our analyzes we copy parts of the database to our servers.

What kind of mapper are you ?

I have the impression that little by little I became a mapper of the second plan. Right now, I do more evangelization around OpenStreetMap than actual mapping. I have organized conferences, met ministers, talked to the administration, etc. This requires some availability and patience. When you do it once, it often occurs that you are asked again. But I would be very happy if others will join me and start bringing the "message" themselves.

The consequence is that I have less time to add new objects to the database and spend more time talking about it. And, I confess, I have the impression that I start losing touch with the basis.

At this moment I am interested in the "social" mapping. I have been a community worker for 10 years and I think that OpenStreetMap is a great tool for this profession: e.g. for the creation of a central database of contacts, and to create maps for the most needy in our community (e.g. homeless people).

There was already a mapping party for the homeless in April, and I think it is a very sympathetic initiative.

What do you map ?

Mmm, I just answered that.. :-)

What is your largest accomplishment ?

I am proud of some of the presenations I gave, especially when some people from the audience came to me with additional questions, and later on became interested in OpenStreetMap or started using it in for their work.

Maybe not an accomplishment per sé, but I met a reasonable number of sympathetic people from the administration in Brussels and Wallonia. They are sincerely enthusiastic about OpenStreetMap, but every administration is like a juggernaut, they have a hard time to change course.

Why do you map ?

To maintain a "common good". I am very motivated by the idea to make and maintain a database with collective knowledge, available to everyone. This gives me the idea that I'm contributing to something that is much larger than myself.

Because our economic system is pushing us in the direction of individualism and glorifies property, I am happy, very happy to see different initiatives (such as OpenStreetMap, Wikipedia, open source, but also the movement of cooperatives and common kitchen gardens) form a counter movement.

I am convinced that on short or mid-long term our current dominant economical system will implode and a mixed system will emerge with a better balance between individual freedom and participation in the community.

Do you do other stuff besides mapping ?

As I already said, I present more than I map, although, occasionally, I find the time to map for Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) projects.

I am also looking forward to moving to a new home, so I have a new neighborhood to start mapping.

Do you have some ideas to grow the OpenStreetMap community ?

I really like the recent initiatives by the Belgian community to welcome new mappers.

The mapathon organised in collaboration with 7 Belgian universities in April of this year and the mapping party for the homeless also attracted new mappers. I am looking forward to similar initiatives.

What is the biggest strength of OpenStreetMap ?

Its community of mappers, its license, ... about everything :-)

I find that OpenStreetMap is always ahead of the large suppliers of databases: when there is a new trend (e.g. infrastructure for cyclists), mappers will immediately start adding those in the most visited areas. The suppliers of the classic databases come afterwards, maybe they are more complete or with more coherence, but they are late, sometimes too late. Sometimes they are never arrive, like in developing countries.

What is the largest challenge for OpenStreetMap ?

The continuous growth of regular contributors in order to keep the map up-to-date.

How do you keep informed about OpenStreetMap news ?

I follow the OpenStreetMap blogs via an RSS-feed. I am also member of the talk-be mailing list, although I do not participate very actively.

Do you have contact with other mappers ?

I see other mappers during mapping parties, but also in certain projects.

Anything else that you want to mention ?

I am very touched by the capability of the community to help and support. It makes me proud to be part of it.