Today we had a chance to speak with “Agathocle deSyracuse” (pseudonym) who is using OpenStreetMap and other tools to produce maps of the ongoing conflict in Syria and Iraq. His work was recently featured in BBC coverage of the conflict.
1. Who are you and what do you do? Why do you do your work under a pseudonym, and why this pseudonym?
I’m French and I’m working in the software industry. I also have a degree in History and I’m very interested in understanding military strategies and tactics such as Constantinople siege, Napoleonic wars, or WWII. However, one can understand warfare and geopolitics are not related to my professional life, so that’s why i’m using a pseudonym. Agathocles of Syracuse was a Greek Tyrant of Syracuse in Sicily living in the end of 3rd century BC. He his famous for his expedition to Carthage while his own city was besieged in Syracuse by the same Carthaginians.
**2\. What is your experience, from the cartographic perspective, using OpenStreetMap to document the conflict in the middle east? How is the coverage, what are the issues involved? **
_One year ago, as I had been following Syrian war for a long time already, I realized that maps were missing in order to understand well situation there. There were a few maps you could find in some twitter accounts, but they were either too detailed or engaged (pro-opp. or pro-govt). After having tried a few softwares, I talked about it to one of my friend who is OpenStreetMap France board of Director member and he convinced me to try on OSM. I tried several layer, but the best I found was “MapQuest”, as it provided towns names in both English and Arabic, and provided quite a detailed view. I would say the coverage is good although there are sometimes mistakes, or some uncovered areas, but it is globally a good tool, as I can tell you I have much more small villages names in English than in Wikimapia or Google map._
**5\. OSM just celebrated it’s 10th anniversary. Where do you think the project will be in 10 years?**
_Well I really have no idea, as 10 years in software world is like 100 years in goods manufacturing. I just hope it will continue to grow, and that one day it will allow to make satellite maps mapping._
Many thanks Agathocle for your efforts in making the world aware of the terrible situation. Thanks also for taking the time to speak with us.
You can see [all the Open Geo interviews here](/tagged/interview). If you are or know of someone we should interview, please get in touch, we’re [always looking to promote people doing interesting things with open geo data](/post/98139732993/call-for-open-geo-openstreetmap-interviewees).