Mathieu Bossaert - TAB Application - 2022-04

Mathieu Bossaert (@mathieubossaert)

Conservatoire d'Espaces Naturels d'Occitanie (France)

What contributions have you made to ODK?
About spreading ODK:

  • I have conducted trainings about ODK (form definition and data workflows with PostgreSQL/PostGIS) for GIS and Databases administrators (~50) from different Nature Conservation bodies or French research labs.
  • I have presented ODK at different conferences and meetings : Forum TIC, FOSS4G-FR, Webinars, French research meetings.
  • I have written several presentations of forms on the ODK forum in 2020 and the geotribu's website in 2021
  • I initiated the creation of a french "showcase" website where to describe and share forms about nature conservation and biodiversity monitoring we hope to inaugurate on October
  • I initiated an application to a call for projects about the dissemination of a French standard for species observation data. We are going to produce a ODK form conforming to this data standard.
  • I try to translate Collect and Central as soon as new strings are available in transifex
  • I contribute to the forum.

About using ODK:

  • In 2020 I said I needed to investigate on how to improve data workflows between Central and our PostgreSQL centric information system. I described those researches on the forum and few month later I wrote a working set of SQL functions - I called central2pg - in order to automate data consolidation into PostgreSQL using Central's ODATA API.

How do you believe your contributions have benefited ODK?

Courses grows users community and form showcases make non users curious about ODK.
Forum discussions with the community (users, core team, and TAB) about features and needs help to formulate the needs and, I hope, new feature prototyping

Central2pg seems to satisfy some users around the world. I am quite proud of this contribution and the positive feedback from users involved in projects that make sense to me. It's great to "contribute" to such projects through a little SQL code ! It helps SQL fans like me to get clean database tables from their forms.

What do you believe the top priorities for ODK should be?

  • Geo stuff with map appearance in select is a huge step forward. Our first uses are really promising and we are very impatient to play with lines and polygons.
  • I think it would be great to be able to push external datasets files with new or updated entries on phones without publish a new form version.
    • use central to do it or getting a widget to be able to download files and put it at the right place (geojson, csv medias or custom mbtiles). This second approach really enjoys me as it would increase ODK's "genericity". One only form would use different external datasets or base layers mbtiles depending on user...
  • A Form showcase with documentation, screencasts and sources (xlsx download) would really help to spread ODK and share good practices and tips and tricks
    • I will create such a website, with colleagues from other CENs in order to spread ODK in nature conservation bodies
  • Finding a workaround with certificate issues to allow local installation of ODK Central to help students or unconnected bodies to discover and use ODK. I am convinced that ODK is a great tool to teach information system based over powerful opensource components :
    • formalize user needs about data collect and data analysis
    • form creation for data collect (mobile and web)
    • data analysis (SQL queries, even spatial, R scripts, Dashboards)
    • restitution (R scripts and shiny apps, web SQL Dashboards, QGIS maps)
  • French documentation : I read in a "tab" meeting transcript that you would like to have a French version of the documentation. I agree it is important !

How will you help ODK accomplish those priorities?

I will continue to show how we use ODK as an indispensable companion for our field missions, also that it is easy to deploy new forms instead of developing and maintaining dedicated applications, and that it easily integrates our information system and interacts with the other software we use.

The showcase of forms from CENs will be online and inaugurated during the annual CEN congress in October.

I will continue to improve central2pg and share forms and workflows from our organization. I would be glad and volunteer to help on french translation of the documentation.

How many hours a week can you commit to participating on the TAB?

What other data collection projects, social impact projects, or open source projects are you involved with?

I'm a member of since 10 years, a french geo-informatics forum, where I used to be an active moderator of the QGIS and PostgreSQL forums but since I use a lot ODK I have to admit I spend more time on ODK's forum actually. We just open a "mobile tool" forum, I will try to make some place for ODK and I will be attentive to ODK questions and share ODK's forum resources.

I still co-animate the geomatics group of the "Conservatoires d'Espaces Naturels"'s network.

About "social impact projects", I have been working since 2003 in a French NGO for nature protection called CEN (Conservatoire d'espaces naturels) which currently employs 99 people (at the national level, the "CEN" network employs 1000 people). I am in charge of databases and data tools since 2005.

Please share any links to public resources (e.g., resume, blog, Github) that help support your application.

Playing with PostgreSQL and Central's Odata API

Other tools I like to use, not relative to work :


We've also been interested in this! What have you tried so far (if anything)?

Do you have any recommendations for managing translations? I helped set up the OpenDroneMap docs to use Transifex, but I don't find it very smooth/clean for the documentation; although it might be easier with ODK since the docs change less.

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We are not directly blocked because of that and it is really too much complex for me, so I didn't try anything or spend anytime about it. I found the discussion you had about it last summer ( and it helps me to better understand the issue.
The use case I mention in my application came after a discussion with students who wanted to learn ODK in deep after a demo. I had in mind our first workshop about ODK (with aggregate), each participant went back home with the whole solution working on a Raspberry Pi they just had to plug on their network to get in the ODK train.
Solving that "issue" would make it possible again ! But for the moment I am more in "the waiting" than active on it.

No I don't :frowning: I only know and use transifex (and QT Linguist ten years ago to help translate QGIS interface).

I remember you encouraging me to help you if I was looking to do more French translations :slight_smile:
But it is hard to translate the documentation of a tool you do not use (sometimes it's also hard for tool you know !)


Hi Mathieu,

First, happy to see you are applying to TAB. :slight_smile: I wanted to ask, other than perhaps the GIS/integration stuff that you mentioned, are there any aspects of the ODK project as a whole where you feel it is not satisfying the needs of the community? And how you think the TAB can help ODK get there?

[yup, that's a pretty open-ended question, but you've been around ODK for a while so I'm curious to know if you see any broad directional changes needed on the horizon... :thinking:]


Hi Gareth !

glad to be here and quite impress in the middle of you all :slight_smile:

As you said yourself, I think GIS integration need attention I think.
Select on maps is a first significant approach I think. On a long term I imagine a map centered mode based on entity, alongside the classical mode we actually know.

For the rest, it as hard to speak for the whole community, because I "represent" only a subset of it, with its own needs and thematic field issues.

I think one transversal thing missing is a real place dedicated to final work sharing.
I realized during the workshops and courses I co-animated in the last years that potential users (coming to the workshop) only need a little kick to really start using ODK. A lot of great resources could already be found over the forum and, but deserve to be organized and exposed I think… I really don't think the actual sites (forum and docs) are not satisfying the community but I think they could be completed.

So I think the TAB could help to organize and build a kind of resources center, complementary to the documentation and forum, where users could search for a particular feature or thematic and take a form (or a piece of) and associated documentation from the shelf, or pick a R script, a SQL piece of code, API call examples, and watch great tutorials from @janna or stats4SD.

If few of ODK fans and heavy users of each "ODK Community subset" could share and document a part of their work (forms, data workflows, tutos), I am really sure this would help a lot of people to take the step to use ODK and to share best practices.

Such resources will also be an input for community discussion (Core team, TAB and users) to make ODK even better.

Presenting its own work takes time. But from my experience, its is an invest more than a waste of time. Encourage users to participate will need some animation work. The TAB could take it. I remember how your and Helene's advises and proofreading encouraged me in 2020 to write my first showcase !


I like this idea (and it's come up a lot over the years), but I don't know what form it should take. We've tried a bit with the Showcase and the occasional tweet or webinar, but we haven't had the traction I would like. Is there an example of these that you've seen work well? Maybe something like Discourse's docs or the RStudio's Shiny gallery or something like Railscasts? Or maybe the Showcase is fine, but we need to have a regular schedule?

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Crashing the discussion as I find the subject super interesting (and totally support @mathieubossaert's suggestion here and also the work done by Janna) - I personally find Python galleries (which I find easier to navigate than R galleries) do a very good job in that sense. In particular, I find the gallery of the scikit-learn Python package very well structured and balanced - but it is obviously a massive amount of work and is maintained by a dedicated resource. Potential limitations of the current showcase section of the forum is that the information you are interested in may be spread across several threads or on the contrary may be too condensed and by default threads are sorted by the latest update, so that the navigation is not immediately straightforward for users who will not take the time to fully explore the forum. It is still a very good way to gather invaluable content at the moment. Maybe defining an initial set of topics/vignettes on which several members of the community would contribute collaboratively?


I imagine something that allows users to set some criteria :

  • question types,
  • form logical
  • thematic
  • and bonus "tips and tricks" from @LN or @xiphware

Form logical and question types tags should be directly taken from and link to the docs.
The example I have in mind is the wordpress multi-criteria theme search page :

The Discourse's docs page should do the work (3 criteria : category, tags and text search) but I don't know are flexible it is if you imagine it within the actual forum (there should be no difficulty with a dedicated discourse except to rebuild a community around it)

I am not a R or python user and I don't know or even deeply visited any website about but @Thalie's example looks good with a "functionality" entrance and an attractive gallery look (as Shiny's gallery).

The french website invited me last year to write about using ODK in a GIS context. They try to maintain a publication regularity alternating between articles and press review, relative to open-source geomatics.
This regularity (not necessarily this frequency) is important to keep users attentive to the website.

Maybe a kind of periodic review could keep users in touch with ODK community. Discourse's Digest (Activity summary) is a first available possibility. It can be set to expose particular categories or tags. It is sent people who did not visited the site for a while. It is not really beautiful or attractive but informative.

I think whatever the tool used, a regular schedule is important, the frequency must be a balance between animation effort from the Tab members working on it, writing effort from solicited users and "standby time" from readers.

Maybe the actual showcase, with some animation effort and an up to date showcase index would be a good starting point.

The showcase index, once updated, should be pinned permanently on the top of the Showcase category.
I saw this week that it is wiki mode :slight_smile: so we can edit it.
And I'll take some time to.


I spent some time last Friday to classify most topics of the showcase category, depending the title of each one.
I kept @LN classification and added some precision in the "integration" section about the concerned tool (QGIS, R, Relational Databases, GDS) and I also added new sections/tags (tricks, interview, tutorial/demo and "other"). Where can I share it with interested people before updating the topic on the forum ?


Amazing!! :star_struck: I think you should go ahead and edit the real post. Can’t wait to see it!

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I "pushed" a first update to discuss :slight_smile:


Thanks @mathieubossaert, it is already a great update! I would maybe move the Nature Conservation / Biodiversity section up so that it is displayed with other application fields (Agriculture, Health, may also move Covid-19 as a well-identified subsection of Health). We may also want to discuss how we split technical showcases (and in particular, R/relational databases/SQL). I may have seen it as less language- but more functional-oriented, but I also acknowledge that I may be strongly biased here as I am usually not attached to a specific programming language and my own preference may be confusing for others. Wondering what other ODK members would prefer here as we have to make a choice about how the information is displayed anyway (unless we can have search tags)?

Of course !

You're right we need to discuss it. This first approach is a quick answer to the "what is the tool I want to plug to ODK Central" question

I moved the Nature Conservation / Biodiversity section up.

For Covid-19, it is already a subsection of the "Health" one, but the style applied to this level is not clear enough.
Maybe a dedicated topic would be useful instead of my application :wink: