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As people go, I can be a pretty obsessive person, although, I suppose to say that I have an addictive personality is to put it better, as obsessive hints at long nights spent outside pop singers' windows, throwing beheaded flowers in the forlorn hope that they might realize that the socially inept person in their garden is the one for them. As such, the person that introduced me to both cigarettes and quiz machines should be publicly flogged, such is the sway that both have for me. I guess I really shouldn't have picked up Danny Wallace's book 'Join Me' either.
Having recently had a pretty rough time, I had turned to books for some form of not-too-emotionally-evocative comfort, and found myself making weekly visits to Waterstones' for the first time in a long time (having previously been content with re-reading my current stock). As I'd already read 'Are You Dave Gorman' written by the eponymous hero in conjunction with Danny Wallace, I made a beeline for Wallace's 'Yes Man', and devoured it rapidly (metaphorically, of course - the book itself is still intact). With a desire for more of his particularly chatty style and whimsical premises, I searched out 'Join Me', eventually finding it on Amazon, where I hit the One-Click button by mistake. It was on its way.
When the book arrived, I couldn't put it down, and finished it the same day, which is pretty good going when you consider that I was working that day as well. As at some point in the near future, I'll probably end up writing an op about it, I'll go into no great detail here, suffice to say that, after some ups and downs, Danny had managed to create the Karma Army ('It's Not A Cult, It's A Collective'), a group of people who do Random Acts of Kindness (RAoK's) for others in the hope that it will make the world a better place. My addictive personality sat up and begged to Join. But how? Well, there in the last couple of pages of the book was my answer - a web address, and an invitation to Join. As soon as I could, I logged on, and fell into the world of www.join-me.co.uk...
The first thing that struck me about the site was somewhat disappointing - the second line on the page reads 'It's April, and all is well in the world of Join Me.' April? Not any more, and in my experience, any website that leaves something like that up for four months is not usually going to be up to much. However, this feeling is offset somewhat by the overall look of the site - a black, starry background with clear white text which looks very professional, as well as the Join Me logo - the planet Earth shooting out a blue JOIN ME, with the tagline, 'It's not a cult - it's a collective'. The text outlines some of the things currently going on in the world of Join Me (well, in April anyway) - a plug for the Good Good Friday 3 meet, which took place in Nottingham, news that Join Me has been praised by no less an organisation than the Church of England, and an e-mail from a Joinee, recounting the story of how he almost got fired from his job for committing a RAoK.
Below this are links to various other national Join Me sites, as well as to this site in different languages (Dutch, French, Spanish, German, Danish, Italian, Norwegian and Swedish). There is a link to the Disasters Emergency Commission website in case you wish to donate to the Asian Tsunami Fund, and an opportunity to sign up for the Join Me Mailing List. Finally, the bottom of the page offers the chance to purchase the Join Me book itself - despite the slim likelihood of you not having read it before if you've searched the site out - in it's British, US and Australian versions.
The right hand side of the page, however, is where all the really interesting things are kept. Firstly, are instructions on Joining - possibly a little pre-emptive to have them at the top of the page, rather than the bottom, but there can be no question that Danny (or The Leader as he is often referred to) is lacking in confidence. The next link takes you to Join Me news - sadly also lacking updates recently. This was last changed in January of this year, and, despite the interesting articles contained therein, the lack of up-to-dateness is a little annoying. The same can be said of the Joinee newsletter, although it does appear that there is work being done in that area to ensure that there will be a new newsletter released soon.
Danny's US tour diary is no longer available on the site for some reason - every time I try to click on the link, it directs me away from the site completely, which is most off-putting, although the Story of Join Me, the next link down, is working, and is an excellent jumping off point for those people who are not conversant with the movement, bringing the tale up to date and exposing the beginnings of the saga.
Danny's big meet in London in December 2003, Karmageddon, is covered in depth, complete with pictorial evidence of what looks like a day very well spent, and one that left many random people in London very happy indeed (not to mention the villagers of Africa that are now the proud owners of the revolving goat!). The next item is the Join Me Forum - more on that in a short while.
The Joinee Directory lets you see at a glance the Joinees in your area, or at least those that have signed up to it - it's something you have to do yourself, unfortunately, although it appears that a great many people have, as there are over 3,500 entries. The Karma Army mission statement outlines what Good Friday's are all about, and how we can all help to bring them about, while the Raymond Price Fund (for Keeping Raymond Price Out of Trouble) will help fill in a few more gaps in the story for those Join Me virgins out there.
To officially Join, you must send off a passport photo to Danny's PO Box number, and then fill in the Official Join Me Questionnaire, which is next up. Nothing too strenuous to undertake, but you will have to reveal whether or not you wear glasses, so don't sign up too hastily.
Joinee Dating? Have a look.
The Join Me Song, performed by Danny Wallace and Vis-A-Vis is available for download here, as an mp3 and as both Realaudio and Windowns Media Player streaming files, and is worth a quick listen, although you don't have to go quite so far as having it as your ringtone...not that I would ever do that, of course...look, I warned you I had an addictive personality!
Finally, Danny gives his tips on how to spread the word of Join Me to friends, relatives, strangers and pets, in both words, and picture download formats.
Overall, the site has a quality look to it, but is let down by a somewhat less than stellar attitude to updating. There isn't really anything to do on the site, bar reading the information, which, although well written and funny, would not be enough to get you revisiting time and time again. However, there is one thing that will.
Click on the forum link, and you are transported to www.joinees.org/forum, where Joinees come together to talk about all manner of things, from welcoming new Joinees, to arranging Joinee meets, to sharing ideas for RAoK's. There are pretty much always people online, and from browsing the forum, it's clear that a real community has grown out of the original Join Me movement. Welcoming and warm, the Joinees are, as far as I can see entirely, a lovely bunch of people who endeavour to make new Joinees comfortable and invite them in to the bosom of the group. There are so many Join meets being arranged all over the British Isles that I'm shocked that I've never bumped into one by accident, and they are discussed with such happiness, that you can't help but wish that you'd been there.
The requests section is particularly interesting. With such a range of people having Joined, there is a wealth of knowledge to call upon, and any and every problem, situation or poser is discussed here. A similar thing happens in the Personal and Bloggish section. This is an area where Joinees can discuss anything pertinent to their lives, be it good, bad, ranty, melodramatic, or nothing-at-all-really. There are some lovely threads in here, and all the Joinees offer support and advice to each other in a really friendly manner. I suppose that's just what happens when you put together a group of people who's one underlying piece of common ground is that they've joined a 'cult' based purely on doing Random good deeds.
The off-topic section is where the really random conversations get started, as well as there being a book and music discussion thread, and an area for games playing. I recently got involved in a rare answers quiz that proved something of a taxer - to myself and my friends (and no, I wouldn't call it cheating to ask for 'advice'!).
Yes, you read correctly - I got involved. For since the second of August, I have been a Joinee, and I'm very proud of it. So far, my RAoK's haven't exactly been over the top, but that's not the point - the point is to make someone smile, and I've certainly done that. It's a lovely feeling too. Through the Join Me website, and the forum, I've arranged to attend my first meet, in Birkenhead (just over the River Mersey) in a fortnight, and I'm slightly overexcited by the whole prospect. In accordance with Danny's wishes, as expressed through the site, I've started spreading the word through my friends and colleagues, and am starting to get some interest - although it does feel a bit psycho to cheerlead for a 'cult'.
Overall, though, as I say, the site could use a more regular overhaul, there are saving graces, most particularly the forum and Joinee Radio, which can be reached through it - so far there are five episodes, with the longest coming in at just over twenty minutes, all hosted by Joinees and available, I believe, as a podcast - as well as the array of information for new and potential Joinees. The site is well presented, well laid out, and with everything on the same page, very easy to navigate. There is nothing important hidden away, and, although obviously aimed at expanding the Karma Army, is well enough thought out that it doesn't lose the interest of those that have already signed up.
So, if you like to be good, think the world could be a nicer place if we were all a bit nicer, and want to do something about it, then why don't you...
Brilliantly written review. It's the kind of thing I'd sign up to, purely through admiration for Danny Wallace, but I find sites which are not updated really off-putting. If they don't care enough to keep it current, I find it hard to be enthusiastic. I heard on the grapevine that Danny is doing something new soon. I think it involves monkeys but that might just be a vicious rumour! x