Almost on a daily basis, I visit my regular chosen blog sites and on occasion, will chip in my two peso’s worth of comments. This last weekend I spent more time than I should have on a couple of other sites and came across some information and an accumulation of comments that varied from potentially misleading to totally inaccurate. I read several answers to questions that were posed by curious blog or forum visitors, that were published with an apparent total disregard for accuracy and facts. It seems some responses are clearly offered up without any due diligence performed on the part of the respondent. Over time, I have also come across some serious misrepresentations. Recently, I offered up a caution, privately I might add, to the owner of a site who was offering services that were flagrantly misrepresented AND illegal, per Philippines law. The owner of that site chooses to ignore my warning and continues to this day to offer these services that could potentially burn somebody in the long run.
The one common denominator in many blogs (and forums) that is consistent is clearly evident; while most bloggers and forum regulars love to write and positively promote the Philippines, sometimes the accuracy of the information they provide can be stale (not current) and in some cases totally bogus. I’m not speaking about the folks that write about their personal accounts of day-to-day activities and experiences, nor am I picking on individuals who might express their opinions or those who might describe the trials and tribulations of building their bahay (house). The documented “life and times” of Joe the expat is not the target of this post. There are many good bloggers and a good forum or two that originate out of the Philippines.
The beef I have is with someone (anyone) that attempts to provide guidance to the unknowing based upon their own understanding [or misunderstanding] of current regulations or laws. Bad information can be detrimental to the newcomer looking for advice, especially when the advice emulates from somebody else’s ill-advised post or blog. Garbage in-garbage out is how it was once described in the beginning days of computing, and holds true today in the business of information dissemination.
WHERE DID YOU HEAR THAT?
While there are untold millions of bloggers in the world, some bloggers will write for fun, and others write to make a living through advertising. In an attempt to attract larger audiences, some bloggers are becoming more provocative and sensational and they may go out-of-the-way to appear truly authoritative. Unlike a community newspaper which has a relatively defined public territory, a blogger’s audience can be geographically far-reaching. Advice given to a potential expat coming, say from the UK, may be totally irrelevant to someone looking to immigrate to the Philippines from Canada or the U.S. Poorly moderated forums can also be a misleading or dangerous source of information for anyone curious about expatriation. Good moderation should come from someone who is totally committed to the reliable and accurate information that the forum generates. I’ve witnessed forum moderators offer up a lot of comments from thread to thread, which further poses the question: How do you know how grounded or knowledgeable the moderator is?
From medical insurance benefits to treatment in emergency rooms, to foreign-owned businesses and gun ownership, being able to quickly identify or trust the accuracy of any information one finds on the internet can be complex and challenging, and understanding the difference between legitimate and invalid sources of information is key. No one person is the expert in ALL areas.
My recommendation to anybody visiting expat blogs and forums is to take information with a grain of salt and to validate, verify, and then validate some more. If you see a comment that might seem valid, follow-up with that individual privately to qualify their knowledge if need be. While there is much good information published daily that provides insights into the day-to-day expectations of life in the Philippines, the most trusted source of official information of course is going to be straight from the horse’s mouth, or that government entity that has cognizance over the particular law or regulation of interest. For example, if you have a question about immigration options, and while you may get the gist of what’s involved by visiting various blogs, you should always visit the official website or contact that responsible agency directly for the latest up-to-date information.
Remember this. When it comes to mandates, regulations or laws and how they may affect your particular situation, it should all be treated in the same manner in which you would approach an airline’s published flight schedule – because all things are subject to change without prior notice.
And when it comes to information gleaned over the internet, the one thing for certain is this: the only thing worse than no information is bad information!