New Vancouver chapter of Beer and Blog group brings together social media enthusiasts

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Sometimes, socializing with others can be just plain isolating — especially when you use a computer to do it.

Take a look behind the scenes of the public online forums of blogs, Twitter and Facebook and you’ll find many separated souls, each working and chatting alone, often from an office cubicle or from home without much more than a cat to keep them company.

The newly forming Vancouver chapter of a group called Beer and Blog is trying to change that in Clark County.

“You don’t have to know each other to get together and have a good time,” said Sean Wiese, the chapter’s founder and president. “What we’re trying to do is really just bring a lot of people with the same interests together and build a social network for them in Vancouver.”

If you go

• What: Beer and Blog Vancouver.

• When: 4-6 p.m. Thursday.

• Where: Big Al’s bowling alley and sports bar, 16615 S.E. 18th St.

• Information: beerandblog.

The original Beer and Blog started in Portland in 2008 and has grown to about 20 chapters worldwide in just a few short years. The Vancouver chapter, which formed in February, is the newest.

The local group is still small, only drawing between 10 and 20 visitors when it meets on the last Thursday of each month at Big Al’s bowling alley and sports bar (16615 S.E. 18th St.), but it is growing.

The Portland version, which meets every Friday at The Green Dragon (928 S.E. Ninth Ave., Portland), can sometimes draw upwards of 200 people, said Michelle Anderson, who runs that chapter and the overall organization.

More typical, though, is a turnout of somewhere between 50 and 100 people, she added.

On the Web

• To get more up-to-date information about Vancouver Beer and Blog, visit beerandblog.

• Follow these folks on Twitter:

@dswiese, Sean Wiese, chapter president

@mediachick, Michelle Anderson, organization president

@beerblogvanwa, Vancouver chapter Tweets

@beerandblog, Portland and organization Tweets

@ilovebigals, Big Al’s, group meeting spot

“It’s about social capital, not about selling stuff — and we have an absolute ban on Power Point presentations,” Anderson said. “Sometimes we get sponsors who will give things away, but we don’t let them take over. It’s basically a place where you can sit down and ask questions about anything related to blogging.”

More important than the size of the gatherings is what people get out of them — a community of friendly, welcoming participants, said Wiese, the Vancouver chapter leader.

“It’s sort of a social experiment for now, but we plan to keep at it,” he said. “We don’t have enough critical mass to meet more than once a month right now, but if it grows, we certainly could start doing that.”

Many in the Vancouver chapter have been regular participants in the Portland group, but because they live on this side of the Columbia River, they decided to revolt against the drive and create something more local.

“Traffic is bad, so it’s nice to have one here,” said Lia Hollander, who started out with the Portland group. “The Vancouver group has been great so far. People talk about how to blog, about events, about the newest Wordpress (blogging software) features.”

Beyond the discussions of things like software and website analysis, the group also is always at the ready with suggestions from its various beer aficionados.

That seemed like a perfect combination to Perry Bee, who came to his first Vancouver Beer and Blog in April after learning about it on Twitter.

Bee, who has a blog called http://www.brewmancenw.com/ and goes by the Twitter handle @brewmanceNW, is a self-described craft beer nerd and often writes on the Web about his beer adventures in the area.

“Basically I have a wealth of pointless craft beer knowledge and I’m trying to share that and promote and inform about the local brew scene,” Bee said. “When I saw this on Twitter I came down and figured I’d see what I can learn. They’ve all been very friendly and informative.”

The organizers often walk over and greet newcomers when they see them to make them feel more welcome.

At the April meeting, group members new and old shared beer and spinach dip as they compared smartphones and talked about what sort of applications they use to tweet and blog.

“My advice, always be prepared to blog when the blog post starts in your head,” Hollander told those sitting around her table.

That drew a slight wince from Anderson.

“I seem to get my best ideas when my hands are unavailable,” she said.

But Mary Rarick, who came from Portland to check out the meeting, had a solution.

“I wrote a blog about that — and then I found a product where you can actually write while you’re in the shower,” Rarick said.

Wiese said he hopes more people will come out and join the conversation at Beer and Blog’s May meeting this week.

“All you have to do is show up, buy a beer and hang out,” Wiese said.