The Joe Hall Story

Hello there, my name is Joe Hall. I write a weekly column on a highly respected blog. My work has begun to gain more attention and momentum, and the company I founded a few years ago is building a strong brand with in its industry. I live an increasingly public life on-line, and I have a disability.

For the last several years I haven’t felt that my disability isn’t relevant to many of the things I do on the internet. Because of that I have tried to steer the dialog away from it. In short, I want folks to talk about me because of the code that I write, the brands that I build, and the stories that I tell. Not because of the 200 pounds of steel strapped to my ass.

Because of this I have been apprehensive about talking publicly about my disability in the last several years. Which quite honestly has been really hard and strange for me. You see, I used to do nothing but talk about my disability (more on that later). But now its time that I let the cat out of the bag and start talking honestly about my life with a disability. I hope by doing this I can share a different perspective on the things I do.

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…

On January 22nd 1982 my twin sister, Rachel, and I were born. Weighing in at 6lb 6ozs Rachel was perfect in every way. However, I had a different agenda. Sporting an authentic South Carolina mullet (seriously, it was weird) that went half way down my back, I came into this world blazing! To start things off, I had 22 broken bones during child birth. With the medical staff not really sure what to do with me, they decided to call in an expert. Soon, Dr. Richard M Davis diagnosed me with a rare bone disorder called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI).

Osteogenesis Imperfecta is a genetic disorder characterized by bones that break easily, often from little or no apparent cause. If you really want to geek out on OI, read up on genetic collagen deformities.

So in short, OI causes my bones to break easily. I have had some where in the ball park of a few hundred fractures so far. OI is also defined by the LPA as one of the most common types of dwarfism.

As a result of having OI I am three feet tall and use an electric wheelchair. I am also partially deaf as a result of OI affecting the bones in my ears.

The birth of a hacker.

So having a brittle bone disorder as a kid means not playing sports, riding a bike, or taking part in many of the physical activities that most children enjoy. Because of this I think most people with OI develop a creative personality at a very young age, from the need to entertain themselves. While many of my friends were playing school sports or exploring the neighborhood, I was in my room taking things apart.

Joe Hall – Age 10 – Family Vacation

Yep, that’s right I said taking things apart. You see from as far back as I can remember I have always had a very curious obsession with learning how things work. I love to look inside something and trace the steps and parts to see how it functions. Which is what ultimately led me to teach myself to program using reverse engineering. Taking things apart was so much of an obsession that as a kid I started taking apart anything I could get my hands on. I have taken apart, TVs, telephones, radios, clocks, watches, remote controls, cameras, fans, VCR’s, camcorders, computers, lamps, doorbells, door locks, and much more. My favorite thing to take apart is a hair dryer, because when you remove the outer shell it looks like a ray gun.

Eventually, my parents got a bit tired of me taking apart all of the appliances in the house and started taking me to garage sales on Saturday mornings to find new things to take apart. The rest of the weekend was devoted to hacking my new prize! I remember visiting my friends houses and they would have shoe boxes of baseball cards. When they visited my house they would see my shoe boxes of electric motors, LEDs, circuit boards, and battery assemblies.

As I got older I taught myself how to write HTML using Angelfire and Geocities to experiment with. Web development back then was different mostly because WYSIWYG editors weren’t widely available like they are now, and as a result folks that built web sites actually understood the code.

Joe goes to Washington

During my senior year of high school I remember a lot of folks telling me that I should study computer science in college. A few folks told me that working with computers would be the best choice for me because of my disability. After I heard that I knew I would never study computer science! The absolute worst thing you can tell a young person with a disability is, you should do this or that because of your disability.

So, I did what any idealistic energized young person would do, I studied politics! During my study of political science I quickly became involved in the disability rights movement. I joined the National Disabled Students Union two weeks after it was founded. And, several years later became their executive director. My time at NDSU was one of the most important parts of my life. I can accredit most of my marketing and PR skills to working along side some of the most amazing public policy and political minds in the disability policy sphere. It was during this time that I started to learn about marketing. Although at the time we called it grass roots political action, but in the end it was marketing none the less. In both marketing and grass roots advocacy, we promote ideas, organize people around information, and sell hope.

Back to Binary

While I was deep in the political world, I never stopped writing code. In the little bit of spare time I had in 2002 I created Sivle. And I often did small web sites for the organizations I was working with. After college I kept volunteering for many of the organizations that I was active with in college. But then discovered the hard truth that there isn’t much money in changing the world. In fact many of the jobs that I was most passionate about back then didn’t pay a dime.

So, I naturally started building web sites and custom web applications for anyone that needed it. Eventually, I took a job as an in house IT specialist at a local real estate company. While there I convinced the broker in charge to let me build a web site and start an internet marketing campaign. With in several months our leads from the internet went from 0% to 90%. Despite the influx of leads the company still had a hard time in a terrible market. As a result, slowly every member of the staff was laid off, except me. As my broker put it, I was the only one that produced results. However, even my internet marketing magic couldn’t stand up against one of the worst housing markets in history, and soon I was let go as well.

For the last several years I have put my heart, soul, money, and lack of sleep into building a business on the internet, and, I can honestly say that I am more excited about the future than I ever have been. I have no idea where I will be next year, but I can’t wait to get there.

If you have never talked to me online or met me in person, make sure you reach out on Twitter or with the links to the right. Or email me anytime at joe [at] jozsoft [dot] com


  1. Joe, I am glad I had the honor to meet you. You have overcome so much and became something amazing. You truly are an inspiration to us all and a good reminder that we all often complain too much about the little things. You have a lot you could complain over, but you don’t…you just fight hard and make amazing things. You parents must be so proud.

    You are truly an inspiration to me and I hope I can be as smart as you one day πŸ™‚

    • Joe Hall says:

      I so enjoyed meeting you too at SSSS too! Did you dig the Star Wars reference above?

  2. F>U>C>K
    You are a star and an inspiration. Glad I chat to you on twitter.

  3. Hey bud, I know you for your code, sense of humor, love for Jack Daniels, and good work. I don’t think of you as the guy with “steel stuck to his ass”.

    Honored to be your friend man. Great story!

    • Joe Hall says:

      Jordan you are the man. Thanks for all the support you and everyone at the SS/BlueGlass team has given me over the last couple of years! I think the best part has been an awesome friendship!

  4. I’ve always said the “About Me (or About Us)” page,
    is the most important on any site.

    But this post just blows that away.

    Your story is inspiring etc,
    but more than that you’re a great writer and great example
    1) Doing
    2) Being human
    3) Inspiring doing whiling being human

    Thank you,

    • Joe Hall says:

      Ed, one of the things that I really dig about you is that you are very supportive of the folks you believe in. One of my favorite traits of any human being.

  5. I love that you got your HTML chops using Angelfire and Geocities – back in the 90s, I went through a tutorial on AOL and have been coding it by hand since then.

    I use to love looking at the source of other sites and modifying their code to put together my early affiliate sites back then.

    • Joe Hall says:

      d00d! AngelFire was off the hook back in the day! Remember that weird client side FTP thing they had going?? it was like everyone uploaded their stuff to the same folder!

  6. Joe,

    What an incredible story. I was touched deeply by it – but giggled at the baby mullet. πŸ™‚

    I’m so glad I finally had the opportunity to meet you at Search and Social and getting to be your fave, if even just for a day. lol I look forward to seeing you around more.

    • Joe Hall says:

      So after I was born, I had to stay in the hospital for 6 weeks for my fractures to heal. When my parents came to get me on the last day, the nurses had braided my mullet! I was like a white baby Stevie Wonder!

  7. I don’t know what is more inspiring: the story, or the picture of you pimpin’ poolside at age 10. It’s probably a 49 / 51 situation.

    All jokes aside, I’m glad we finally got to meet at SSSS in Tampa. Lookin forward to the next time so we can hash out more nerdtalk.

  8. It feels like you haven’t finished this! I wanted more details on what came after Real Estate – but it was very brief. Otherwise very well written – I am impressed by your success and look forward to hearing more about your story, continued.

    • Joe Hall says:

      Ross, have mostly been plugging away with and JOZSOFT. And doing some affiliate sites on the side.

  9. Awesome Joe, thank you for posting your story. It’s immensely interesting to know where people are “coming from”. I enjoy our discussions a great deal. Wish they happened more often. Speaking of which, I owe you an email. πŸ™‚

    • Joe Hall says:

      Yes we should continue a few of our discussions. Been thinking a lot about keyword research for social media lately!

  10. Great story Joe, thanks for sharing it with us …. hope to see you at Pubcon!

  11. Joe,
    you rock..

    fyi.. everytime we talk in person.. i have yet to see “the 200 pounds of steel strapped to my ass.”

    i see my intelligent super cool friend. =)

    May God grant you more success than he already has =)

    • Joe Hall says:

      I often forget about the 200 pounds of steel strapped to my ass as well which is why I am constantly accidentally running over toes and “widening” doorways! πŸ˜› But, thanks for having my back dude!

  12. Hey Joe, thanks for sharing your story dude. It’s obvious to me, having met you officially in person at this point, that your disability takes a back seat to everything else. You’re a great guy, wicked smart and truly awesome to hang out with. Best of all, you’re authentic. Looking forward to it again (soon hopefully)! Cheers!

    • Joe Hall says:

      Marty, you are a great guy! I really enjoyed hanging with you at Search Exchange! We should find another excuse to hang out some time.

  13. Joe, you might suck at PowerPoint but you kick ass at pretty much everything else.

    This is a great post and I’m lucky to know you.

  14. So all that stuff you took apart – did you ever put any of it back together?

    (ork ork!)

    Great post by a great guy!

    • Joe Hall says:

      Some of it, but most of the time it never worked again…..that’s what drove my parents to the garage sales.

  15. Joe, this was a great post. You and I have interacted off and on via social networks over the last year or so and you have always been a great resource and a fun person to follow. I had always been curious as to what your backstory was, but never felt comfortable enough asking. Thanks for sharing your story. While it shouldn’t impact or matter in relation to your business or your work, it’s always nice to know where someone you enjoy and respect is coming from.

  16. Joe,

    Ok, you’re pic of you in the pool is SOOOOO adorable!!!!!

    Thanks for sharing this part of you. I honestly enjoy every time we get to meet in person and really cherish you being one of my online buddies that can make me laugh yet also educate me at the same time πŸ™‚



  17. You prove that it isn’t what happens as much as how you react to it that makes you who you are.

  18. Awesome post Joe! It was great meeting you at Vegas for Pubcon last year, you’re absolutely a riot, you should move to Cleveland!! πŸ˜€

    • Joe Hall says:

      I should move to Cleveland I hear you have better beer and less hurricanes than we do!

  19. Joe, appreciate you sharing this and even more appreciate our chats and friendship online! Can’t wait to see you again my friend … Pubcon?

  20. Awesome story Joe! Really appreciate you taking the time to share with us all. It was a real inspiration. Glad to know you and chat with you on Twitter. You’re an awesome guy.

    • Joe Hall says:

      Dude, you are an awesome guy! We should chat more, I have this feeling that we are both “idea people”, which I am not really sure what that means. But, I think its a good thing. We should bounce ideas off people.

  21. Awesome post Joe. I’m really glad I got to meet you and hang out at SSSS. Looking forward to more good things…

    • Joe Hall says:

      Samir! Meeting you at SSSS was great! One of the best reasons to go to a conference! Btw, i think I owe you an email!

  22. Hey Joe,
    Just wanted to drop by and say hello. Awesome piece. Hope we get to meet IRL some where soon.

  23. Joe, I have to say you’ve definitely got not only a very creative mind but an amazing sense of humor. I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation at S&S Spring Summit 2010 – you had the whole room rolling, as well as provided very useful knowledge. I’m glad to have met you. Best of luck πŸ™‚

    • Joe Hall says:

      Thanks a ton Sean! Btw, I really admire the work you are doing! IF ANYONE IS READING THIS, GO DONATE TO SEAN’S AWESOME WORK! NOW!

  24. It’s always great to get to know someone better via their backstory. I think you should bring the braided mullet into fashion! In fact, maybe we should all start a new fashion trend – I’m willing to join the Joe Mullets Marketing Club. πŸ˜€

  25. Fascinating story! If you weren’t such a nice/great guy, I could easily see you settling comfortably into the supervillain business ;P

    I’m looking forward to reading more from you!

    • Joe Hall says:

      Are you referencing Elijah Price? Yeah hes a bit to tall for OI….don’t understand why they went with Samuel L Jackson….they should have gone with Gary Coleman.

      And, if you are not talking about Price, then please ignore my comic book geekery!

      • I totally was.

        • I thought the same thing as Rebecca! I don’t think Gary Coleman could have been as menacing as Samuel Jackson, though.

          Thanks for sharing your story, Joe. I’m glad you did end up going the Internet route rather than sticking with politics so we can all benefit from your experience and talent.

  26. Joe I have been a secret admirer for quite sometime. As a matter of fact you seemed shocked when I made reference to you on Twitter I posted – ” #FF no need 4 my recommendation #code #webdevelopment #geek @joehall thanks for everything that you give & share in our community πŸ™‚ ” – That’s when it hit me… I don’t think you realize a lot of us on the Internet are blind to color, ability, disability, gender, etc. etc. That is why I embraced the Internet way back before you were born. πŸ™‚ Okay maybe I exaggerate about before you were born but pretty freaking close.

    Bottom line is you are a breath of fresh air Joe, and yes, I think you are a wonderful addition to our community and I am proud to read and follow you.

    • Joe Hall says:

      I was kinda surprised with that #FF because I didn’t know you had been following me that long! I look forward to getting to know you better!

  27. Joe,

    This is SUCH a great article!! πŸ™‚ Very well written!! I’m so glad you did it!

  28. My first websites were on Angelfire and Geocities too! I hated updating them (oh, to have had WordPress back then), so I let a bunch of them die off in sad obscurity.

    Great to hear a bit of your background πŸ™‚

    • Joe Hall says:

      Yeah all of my Angelfire sites died as soon as I found Geocities, and then alll those died as soon as I could afford real hosting! πŸ™‚

  29. πŸ™‚

    I was all excited seeing you were going to explain your disability. Now we would finally understand why you say what you say at times!! “I have a disability” — yeah, you’re a smart ass πŸ™‚

    But no … it’s just this whole “the body I live in has some issues” thing. Bummer. Sorry for you, dude; means you’re still 100% responsible for everything you say πŸ™‚

    Seriously though — good to read how you travel through Life and what the condition of your road is.

    • Joe Hall says:

      Yes, unfortunately I am still 100% responsible for everything I say πŸ™‚

      But I gladly admit to being a smart ass!

  30. You simply rock Joe. I ditto what everyone else said. You are one of my most favorite people I’ve met on Twitter. Wish I had gotten to see more of you this last PubCon Vegas. Next time for sure! Thanks for sharing your story. I love hearing where my friends have come from! <3

  31. Thanks for sharing Joe. Its always nice to learn more about those you respect in the industry.

    • Joe Hall says:

      Jeff! When are we going to have another pint together? You coming to Pubcon Vegas this year?

  32. Dude, first of all, what the hell is this crap about Angelfire? Those of us who have been hand coding since ’95 used to make fun of Angelfire and Geocities “webmasters”. Heck – I bet back then you thought javascript scrolling messages were all the rage…

    On a lighter note, as someone who, at a young age, turned to drugs due to psychological disabilities, and has fought a long, sometimes painful battle emotionally over the years as a result, if anyone can appreciate your perseverance, your tenacity, your resourcefulness, I can. Maybe. A little.

    As someone who, after decades of ingesting more drugs of every kind than most people experience in a lifetime, overcame the driving need to escape, and has since gone on to be a somewhat semi-lucid member of society and our online marketing community, I can also say, without a shadow of a doubt, that I truly appreciate your continual ability to show up and live the fullest life of anyone I know.

    On a more serious note though Joe, we’re gonna rock Vegas at Pubcon!

    • Joe Hall says:

      In ’95 I was 13!! I couldn’t afford the $25/month for 8MBs!! When I reached around 15 I started building skeleton PCs with my buddy and we marked them up $100 and split it….that would have been like 2 months of hosting. And trust me these sites I built back then didn’t deserve real hosting anyways, they were hideous!

      Anyways, Alan you are an awesome guy! It has been a ton of fun getting to know you as a human being, industry associate, and friend. And yes, we will kill Vegas!

  33. You sir, are quality! Thanks for sharing. Can’t wait to see you again.

    • Joe Hall says:

      Thanks so much Jon! I have really enjoyed getting to know you and the whole Raven team. Next time we are in Vegas you wanna help me take apart one of those slot machines?

  34. Hey Joz, wow man, very cool of you to open yourself up like that, very cool! As kids those summers were the best times of my life, you were then and always will be one of the best friends I’ve ever had. Thanks for sharing that. Your cuz, Jesse

  35. Joe, I was overwhelmingly touched by your story, couldn’t wait to comment, then to scroll down through SCREENFULS of comments. This may go on record as one of the most commented posts and is a testament to how your opening up your life and your heart have touched so many people.

    I have so much I want to say but actually feel slightly speechless for once. I’ll save it up for PubCon!


  36. Thanks for sharing your story Joe, your tenacity is admirable. Hope to meet you a PubCon πŸ˜‰

    • Joe Hall says:

      Oh yes! Its going to be awesome to finally meet in Vegas!! In fact I think I owe you a drink!

  37. Did you have a specially made soapbox? πŸ˜‰

  38. Tim Staines says:

    Seriously . . . man-crush. I used to take everything apart too . . . my parents started getting me these. God I love me some Joe Hall!

    • Joe Hall says:

      LOL, I used to have a bunch of those too! They get boring after the 2nd time of taking them apart though!

  39. It’s always been a privilege knowing you bro, keep up the hard work.

    • Joe Hall says:

      Thanks a lot man! And, just FYI Akismet flagged this comment as spam…. πŸ˜›

  40. Whether you want to hear or not Joe you inspire me. Its been a pleasure to work with you over the last 2 years on the side projects. Your somebody I respect and know can be counted on.

    Thanks for sharing this story bro.

    • Joe Hall says:

      Thanks a ton man, you are a GREAT friend. You have had my back with both business and personal stuff….a rare and awesome mix…I am truly grateful!

  41. 1982? Now I feel old. I was learning to program a TRS-80 in 1982. My parents learned to quiet me down with electronics, too.

    If it makes you feel any better, the first thing I remember about meeting you at Pubcon isn’t the cybernetic enhancements; it’s that no one could keep up with you πŸ™‚

    • Joe Hall says:

      I am sorry we didn’t get more of a chance to hang in Vegas! Are you coming to Pubcon this year?

  42. Whew! Joe, I’m obviously late to the game here and it took me even longer to get through all the comments. I don’t really have much to add that other people haven’t already said. I want to thank you for telling your story and being honest. That’s what I look for in people, I want to know that the person I’m talking to isn’t a fake. You, my friend, will never be a fake. πŸ™‚

    Hanging out with you was the highlight of my time at Search & Social (shh don’t tell Alan I said that). Honestly you made me laugh harder than I had in a long time. And that’s saying a lot, my coworkers can attest to the fact that I laugh quite a bit. πŸ˜›

    Thanks for being yourself, which is simply awesome. πŸ™‚ I look forward to spending time with you in Vegas, that is if I can break through the crowd of people around you!

  43. Wow – just found this now, Joe, and you’re amazing. I’m really glad to have met you!

  44. Hi Joe,

    Thanks for sharing your story. I hope we get to meet at some point as I love getting to know great people who, like me, love and get excited about the web.

    Best wishes!

  45. Joe,
    David forwarded your blogpost to me. When I met you at SSSS, I thought, “What a great guy!” Gosh! I didn’t notice you had some steel stuck on your ass. I did notice you had a great smile and found you to be very charming and interesting, especially while bellying up to the bar with all those other geeks! LOL Thank you for sharing your amazing story and thank you for being a part of mine and David’s world, and ditto what everybody else said. Love ‘ya! Wils

  46. I was captivated while reading this. You’re a survivor and quite an inspiration! And…you reminded me of my dad with the tinkering and taking things apart. He has several patents based on that curiosity. Back in the 1970’s I remember his showing me a calculator that he had taken apart and he made a light meter for cameras from the insides. I hope to meet you someday Joe!

  47. Joe, I remember you as a Big Man on Campus, a title that had everything to do with your persona, activism and commitment. I’m proud of your accomplishments. Good luck with the business!

  48. Hi Joe

    It sounds as though you have ridden the rough times along with the positive times with penache and a good work ethic (always the best response) – your story is an inspiring one, thanks for sharing.

    To some extent I find similarities between the social web and the political world. Although I’ve not been involved with politics directly as you have been, I have worked on a lot of business committees and in that role have had a lot of dealings with local government in the UK.

    When I first stumbled into the SEO world, about 8 years ago now, I had no idea how political it could be, with all it’s cliques and (dare I say) deceptions.

    It’s always refreshing to find someone who shares, like yourself.

    My wife is seriously ill and I can’t help feeling that life is too short to always be playing the oneupmanship game that so many seem to relish.

    Thanks for your honesty. It’s always great to meet real people on the web.

    May all your projects be successful.


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