Welcome to leak season

It's the end of the year, which means cold weather in North America, hangovers for the festivity-goers, and beginning of what we inside the baseball diamond refer to as "leak season." It's slippery during leak season, so bring some salt.

There's a cycle in tech media that resolves in an arc: the early inklings of a story that, initially vapor, builds and eventually coalesces into something tangible. We hear rumors that begin in an ephemeral state, eventually casting themselves in prescient rays of light that you can see but not touch. Over the months, the light hardens and becomes more coherent — photos, videos, specs — as the thing's release date approaches.

The early inklings of a story that, initially vapor, builds and eventually coalesces into something tangible.

Given that CES begins in just a few days, it's the perfect time to remind you that leak season is in full swing and, like snowfalls in the northern hemisphere, the severity ebbs and flows as we approach spring. Over the past few days, we've seen (and reported on) various aspects of phones that will likely be released in 2017: the Galaxy S8, the LG G6, the HTC whatever. We take leaks seriously, and, internally, debate the credulity of each one before reporting. We also judge the reliability of the source, too, the past success of which also dictates whether we follow the story down the proverbial rabbit hole.

At the same time, we also receive leaks, and have to decide whether or not, in the interest of protecting our sources, we publish the information. Of course, there's a business benefit to posting leaks, since the intensity of public interest in pre-release hardware often outweighs (at times dramatically) the equivalent once it has been announced. This is doubly true of devices from manufacturers like Motorola, HTC, Sony and others that have small, loyal followings: the discourse is often hopeful and the communities disproportionately loud, which tends to die down in the weeks and months following availability.

The main issue I see around leaks today is that there are no consequences for getting it wrong. Many publications weave snippets or glances of an outer casing or a spec sheet into a cohesive narrative, large swaths of which is incorrect. But once the product is announced, and gets into people's hands, all is forgiven and forgotten, and we move onto the next cycle. This is nothing new, but it's worth keeping these points in mind as we move into leak season in earnest.

Be skeptical of what you see. Much of what you see out there is either partially or entirely incorrect, and while we're not going to point at individual leaks or sources, I'd encourage you to maintain a healthy amount of skepticism while you enjoy what should be, for all intents and purposes, a piece of entertainment.

Have a happy and healthy new year, and we'll see you in 2017!

Daniel Bader

Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central.