Facebook frustration led to creation of left-wing media aggregator

Joschka Tryba’s motivation for creating a progressive media aggregator was pretty simple.

“Basically, I got sick of Facebook,” the publisher of LeftTimes says. “I was deep in the left-wing Facebook world in the Bernie (Sanders) years and felt like, no matter how hard I tried to train Facebook to give me a good news feed… it wouldn’t give me that.”

Rather than offering useful information from credible sources, Tryba’s Facebook feed seemed designed to provoke confrontation. “It was always trying to get me upset and arguing with people,” he says. “It was always pushing me into a bubble.”

Launched in 2017, LeftTimes provides links to news, opinion, videos, and podcasts from a wide range of progressive publications. Some of them are fairly well-known, like The Nation and Jacobin, but most are smaller publications with relatively low profiles.

“This was always the vision, to help get eyeballs on work that I really appreciate,” Tryba says.

To be included, publications must produce stimulating, thoughtful, and original content.

“When I decide to include a publication, everything that goes through their RSS feed gets included,” he says. “There’s some amount of allowance for things I don’t like or disagree with or cringe to see on my app. But if a source does it so much that I’m cringing too much, then I take it out.”

Tryba, who describes himself as “a very left-wing social democrat,” isn’t dogmatic and includes publications from across the progressive spectrum.

“For example, I don’t identify as Marxist, but I include a lot of Marxist publications,” he says. “The same for Anarchist, too.”

LeftTimes is not monetized. And it’s meant to augment mainstream media consumption, not replace it, Tryba says.

“I think of the left as very much like a relational position to what’s going on in the mainstream, so in a sense you have to know what’s going on there and where the mainstream mentality’s at to have context as to what the critiques of it are.”

The LeftTimes app has 4.8 and 4.7 (out of 5) ratings at Google Play and the Mac App Store, respectively.

A Boston resident who works in education technology, Tryba is currently building a tool that will help American teachers instruct non-native English speakers in the language. “The idea is to help teachers become better teachers and support kids who don’t speak native English, who are often the kids who overlap the heaviest with poverty and all sorts of other dimensions of discrimination and disadvantage.”

He previously worked for a number of tech start-ups, but always with the same vision.

“If there’s a general theme to all the work I’ve ever done, it’s that I want to try and solve social problems by improving how people learn and get access to information,” Tryba says.