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The Meta Network (TMN) Online Community

I spent my twenties as a denizen of the online community The Meta Network (TMN). The Meta Network (TMN) is an online community dedicated to learning and creative freedom. Founded in 1983, the goal was to make rich interaction possible beyond the limits of time and space. MetaNet continues to thrive as a haven of stimulating resources and conversation in an impersonal Internet.

The Meta Network

The Meta Network (TMN) is an online community dedicated to learning and creative freedom. Founded in 1983, the goal was to make rich interaction possible beyond the limits of time and space. MetaNet continues to thrive as a of stimulating resources and conversation in an impersonal Internet.

What is The Meta Network

MetaNet was one of the first, public online communities and has continued as a space for those interestd in building online communities to enrich individuals, enhance organizations and build global communities. The 'vision' of Metanet was to close the gap between the human condition and human potential by providing ways for people engaged in social purposes to find each other and offer support to one another.

MetaNet was one of the consortium of online communities and networks that banded together to form the Electronic Networking Association in 1985 to help develop the medium in ways beyond commercial interests.

MetaNet is a free, public community anyone can join. The community history is all online. All the conversations and stories and dreams that define our sense of community are all available in our community conferences.

Second, The Meta Network is a support system for a wide variety of other communities. TMN supports learning communities, professional communities, corporate communities, government communities, etc.

Topics of discussion

TMN is divided into general subject areas known as "conferences". These conferences reflect member interests, and include arts, health, business, regions, hobbies, spirituality, music, politics, games, software and many more.

Within conferences, members open separate conversational threads called "topics" for specific items of interest. For example, the Current Events conference has topics devoted to the Arab-Israeli conflict, negotiating with terrorists, and U.S. Foreign Policy.

"Public" conferences are open to all members, while "private" conferences are restricted to a list of users controlled by the conference hosts. Some private conferences (such as "Spirit" for women and "Fire" for men) are listed in TMN's directory, but are access restricted for privacy or membership-restriction reasons. Members may request admission to such conferences. Membership in private conferences is by invitation. TMN members may open their own new public or private independent conferences.

Moderation and Organization

The community forums, known as "Conferences" are supervised by "conference hosts" who guide conversations and may enforce conference rules on civility and/or appropriateness. All hosts were selected by TMN moderators.

Overall support and supervision of the conferencing services is by core unpaid members, often referred to collectively, as "conference organizers." Conference organizers have more system operational powers than conference hosts, along with the additional social authority of selecting "featured conference" hosts and (rarely) closing accounts for abuse.

TMN members use a consistent login name when posting messages, and a non-fixed pseudonym field alongside it. The pseudonym defaults to the user's real name, but can be changed at will but this is neither common nor is it encouraged. TMN is 100% real-name-based; although the user's real name can be easily looked-up using their login name. TMN members are not anonymous.

Joining and reading

TMN membership is available to almost anyone, but requires a [ registration] and use of one's real name. All postings on TMN can be read only by TMN members.

Reading and participating in the discussion is done by using a regular browser. TMN utilizes [ Caucus software] , which is an advanced, open source conferencing software that supports sharing multimedia content as well as rich text editing. Caucus keeps track of all the responses and discussion items that you have read, so you go directly to the new material. You can also opt out from discussion topics that do not interest you by "forgetting" them.

TMN in the news

On Thursday, January 21, 1999, Linton Weeks interviewed Frank Burns on The Navigator - Live on the Washington Post via live chat. The article included questions from chat attendees. [ The Navigator - Live T R A N S C R I P T]

When Was The MetaNet Founded?

The Meta Network was founded on March 28, 1983


Frank Burns, founder of the Washington-based Meta Network Community, launched The Meta Network in 1983. The Meta Network is one of the oldest online communities in the country.

Original Press Release Announcing MetaNet

"'March 28, 1983For Immediate Release"'

"The Meta Network"A New Electronic Network Opens;Focused on the Pursuit of ExcellenceMetasystems Design Group announced today that it has opened its new computer conferencing and networking system known as The Meta Network. The new network provides state of the art computer-linked communications services to individuals, government agencies, and corporations who are dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in their organizations and communities.

Frank Burns, President of Metasystems Design Group, Inc. states that The Meta Network is designed for leaders, educators and consultants who want to work together to narrow the gap between the human condition and the human potential.

Burns says, "In a real sense, we are building an information age version of the think tank. We are building a network of networks that is focused on the discovery of knowledge rather than just the exchange of information."

Burns is no stranger to "knowledge networking." He was the Director of the US Army's Delta force prior to leaving the army last November. Delta Force is an inter-disciplinary, computer-linked network of more than four hundred researchers and futurists who are chartered by the Army to develop concepts and methods for impoving the performance of Army organizations.

The Meta Network will enable corporate and government leaders to start their own excellence networks -- focused on improving productivity and unleashing higher levels of human spirit in their own organizations and agencies.

The Meta Network uses the Confer II networking system. This multi-feature computer conferencing package was created by Dr. Robert Parnes at The University of Michigan. Though it is a sophisticated system that provides many features not available in other computer networking packagesd, CONFER II is easy to learn and use effectively. Beginners with no previous experience with electronic mail or computer conferencing systems discover quickly how to engage in focused conversations with their "knowledge colleagues" around the country..and eventually around the world.

Individuals and organizations who join The Meta Network do not need to own their own computers. All they need is access to virtually any computer terminal or communicating word processor in order to connect with The Meta Network via a local phone call.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

  1. What is The Meta Network (TMN)?

    • TMN is an online community dedicated to learning, creative freedom, and rich interactions beyond the constraints of time and space.
  2. When was TMN founded?

    • TMN was founded on March 28, 1983.
  3. Who founded TMN?

    • TMN was founded by Frank Burns.
  4. What are the goals of TMN?

    • TMN aims to close the gap between the human condition and human potential, offering support and community for those interested in social purposes.
  5. How is TMN organized?

    • TMN is organized into conferences reflecting various member interests. Within these conferences, there are specific conversational threads known as "topics."
  6. Who moderates TMN?

    • Community forums, known as Conferences, are overseen by conference hosts. Overall, support and supervision are provided by core unpaid members known as conference organizers.
  7. Is TMN membership free?

    • Yes, TMN is a free, public community. However, registration is required.
  8. How can one join TMN?

    • is closed
  9. Can members remain anonymous?

    • No. TMN is real-name-based, and all members must use their real names.
  10. What software does TMN use?

    • TMN utilizes Caucus software.
  11. Has TMN been featured in any news articles?

    • Yes, on January 21, 1999, Frank Burns was interviewed on The Navigator - Live on the Washington Post.


  • MetaNet: Another term for The Meta Network (TMN).

  • Conferences: General subject areas on TMN that reflect member interests.

  • Topics: Specific conversational threads within conferences.

  • Public Conferences: Conferences open to all members.

  • Private Conferences: Restricted access conferences that require membership or an invitation.

  • Conference Hosts: Supervisors who guide discussions in the conferences.

  • Conference Organizers: Core unpaid members who oversee the entire conferencing services and system operations.

  • Caucus Software: The advanced, open-source conferencing software used by TMN.


The Meta Network (TMN) is among the pioneers of online communities, founded with the vision of creating an expansive virtual space for fostering creativity, learning, and rich interactions. Its conception in 1983 by Frank Burns, a veteran from the US Army's Delta Force and an advocate for the pursuit of excellence, marked a significant move towards the future of digital community building.

Dedicated to bridging the divide between human potential and the human condition, TMN became more than just an online platform. It turned into a symbol of community and support, hosting a consortium of like-minded individuals and organizations aiming to elevate societal purpose.

TMN's structure mirrors the intricate fabric of any society. Its forums, referred to as "Conferences," encapsulate a myriad of interests from arts and politics to spirituality and health, each maintained by dedicated hosts and organizers. Such a decentralized yet cohesive system keeps the essence of TMN alive, allowing it to prosper even amidst an increasingly impersonal digital age.

The community's commitment to authenticity and genuine connections is reflected in its strict real-name policy. Every member, every voice on TMN is tied to a real individual, ensuring accountability and fostering trust.

In its journey, TMN's dedication hasn't gone unnoticed. It has been in the spotlight, most notably in 1999 when Frank Burns was interviewed by The Washington Post. However, beyond accolades and media mentions, TMN's true achievement lies in its enduring legacy of fostering knowledge and camaraderie in the vast expanse of the digital universe.