Drupalcon Chicago introduced the core developer track (Core Conversations) as a parallel track to the normal, broader tracks. Because of this, and a series of compelling BOFs, I spent comparatively little time in the main session halls during the conference. Below I cover some of the topics and discussions that got me excited about Drupal 8 and the direction of our community.
There was a core conversation about Butler, but unfortunately, there is no video (oddly, no video from Copenhagen either), or slides from what I can find. The initiative was also mentioned by Dries during his keynote presentation as one of the goals for Drupal 8. The overarching idea is for core to provide a unified context system, coupled with a better plugin system. This will allow, among other things, better rendering of non-HTML pages, faster rendering for HTML (eg, small portions of a page can be rendered), and allow for better web-services support. The project can be followed on Drupal Groups, and there is code available for Drupal 7 in contrib.
The idea behind Snowman is to build something with Drupal core that does something. Whether the goal is a gateway drug, an on-ramp to contrib, or a canary for determining what can be axed from Drupal core, depends on who (and when) you talk to. Nonetheless, I think the idea is a good one. During the core conversation, it was mentioned that this could be dangerous, because something can always be built better using contrib. So if Drupal is packaged as the definitive Foodie Club site, for example, it could potentially do damage to Drupal's image since it wouldn't be as polished as a site that took advantage of contrib. The proposed solution to this concern would be to direct the new user, via content in the installation profile, towards groups or categories of modules that could quickly be used to further enhance the site.
Small core, and Drupal as a framework
My favorite session was a discussion between Moshe, Eaton and Irakli, moderated by Eric Gundersen. While the video isn't too exciting (no slides, but the audio is good), the discussion is fantastic. Moshe explained that his vision for Drupal core would be to follow something similar to the Ubuntu project, where core itself might be hidden away for developers ('drop' perhaps), and the Drupal.org homepage would direct users to any number of flavors (distributions with a purpose). These distributions would be free to move at an independent pace from core, always targeting the latest stable release. Related to this, Eaton explains his then-named Tsunami initiative (since renamed Snowman, and explained above) as a sort of canary that could be used to define what constitutes the core of Drupal.
Portland invades Chicago, and other favorites
With over 30 Portlanders in Chicago for the conference, this represented more than 1% of the total conference attendees. Additionally, during the git phase next presentation, 5 out of the 11 people thanked on-stage hail from Portland and the surrounding area. The Portland Drupal community is indeed flourishing!
Eaton comparing Drupal to platypodes and broader ecosystems was one of the best sessions I made it to, and is well worth watching if you missed it.