social media

Decentralized, open-source social media? Yes please.


Steve Linberg


November 18, 2022

Fosstodon logo

I’m less than thrilled with late 2022 Twitter. Not a fan of the new administration; let’s just leave it at that. I’m worried about whether the academic API will survive the present melée, and whether it will be overrun with awfulness with the slashing of content moderators, or turned over to AI moderation systems which I can assert are not ready for the full-time job.

Anyway, one of the places Twitter refugees like me are flocking to is Mastodon. Danielle Navarro wrote up a nice introduction for data science folks like us, so I won’t go into the hows and whys here. The most important single point is that Mastodon is a federation of lots of servers, and you pick one (or more) to join, and then there are a few modes of viewing where you either see posts from just people you directly follow (“Home”), people on that server (“Local”), or everywhere (“Federated”, the Twitter-like “firehose” of everything all at once).

“Home” and “Federated” will give you basically the same thing on whichever server(s) you join, so your choice of server only impacts the “Local” view. I set up a personal account on, the biggest single server, out of some instinct that I should be on the biggest one for some reason. You don’t actually need to do that - and there are so many people on that server that the “Local” view is more or less useless. It’s fine, but there’s no advantage to being on a big server.

Fosstodon is oriented at open-source software and data, so it seemed like a good place to set up my professional/academic account. Took a few hours to get my account approved; I then signed up for their Patreon to throw them a buck a month to help keep the lights on. Mastodon carries no ads, and isn’t owned by anybody. I love this, and would rather contribute a little to a product I use than to BE the product, which is the case in any “free,” ad-bearing social media.

The incomparable Julia Silge is on Mastodon (and also at Fosstodon); that’s good enough for me. So is Danielle Navarro, for that matter, and lots of other R and data luminaries. It’s been a long time since social media felt fun. Not missing the blue bird very much so far.

PS. Validate your username! Mine is; add a text link to your Quarto site’s front page, like I did in my Contact section, and be sure the rel="me" attribute is part of the link. The markdown for this (including the groovy Mastodon icon: ) is easy enough:

{{< fa brands mastodon title="mastodon" >}}

Don’t forget to escape the @ symbols in the text part of the link. If you have header icons in your _quarto.yml as well, the entry looks like:

      - icon: mastodon
        rel: me

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. (H/T to Mickaël CANOUIL for this tip about rel: me in yml!)

Then go to your Mastodon’s account settings, and enter your website in one of the 4 metadata fields you get for links; the text on the right will give you the format for the link you need to verify your account with:


Just be sure that rel="me" makes it in to your link, however you format it, and you’re golden.



BibTeX citation:
  author = {Steve Linberg},
  title = {Mastodon},
  date = {2022-11-18},
  url = {},
  langid = {en}
For attribution, please cite this work as:
Steve Linberg. 2022. “Mastodon.” November 18, 2022.