DrupalCon offers lots of opportunities to learn about trends, new ideas, and new technology in the Drupal sphere. Here's a short list of the sessions from DrupalCon Chicago that we were most excited about. Vidoes are now available for most of these talks on the DrupalCon Chicago website.
Drupal on the go with jQuery Mobile
We were really inspired by the session on the jQuery Mobile framework. Creating a flexible mobile theme rather than a platform-specific app has always been an appealing option. jQuery Mobile allows mobile themes to be more app-like and creates an experience that is available across a wide variety of mobile devices. (View Session Page)
Advanced Features Usage
The talk on advanced features usage seems particularly relevant these days. Features is changing the way that large Drupal projects are built and maintained, but using the Features module in a sustainable way takes planning and experience. Neil Hastings shared his approach to using features, including tips and things to avoid. He advocated separation of functionailty into multiple features and keeping certain configuration settings and content out of features altogether. Neil also mentioned the Features Override Module, which can be used to create a create a custom feature to add to an existing base feature. (View Session Page)
The Render API in Drupal 7
There is so much to learn about Drupal 7, and for themers, the render API is one of the most exciting changes. Franz Heinzmann's presentation about the Render API covered the advantages of renderable arrays. He talked about using renderable arrays in the theme layer to modify content output and also how renderable arrays allow for render caching. (View Session Page)
Building awesome user interfaces with Drupal 7's Form, AJAX, and Theme systems
Alex Bronstein's session on Drupal 7 UI Development was full of useful information about the UI possibilities in Drupal 7. It included details about customizing form elements with AJAX and how to build multi-step forms. (View Session Page)
DrupalCon Chicago also included a 'Core Conversations' track with more developer-focused sessions. These were an excellent addition to the conference and a great place for developers to get inspired about the future of Drupal, particularly Drupal core. Those that stood out included Larry Garfield's The Butler Project: Phase 1 and David Strauss's talk about Unifying Drupal Configuration. Both sessions touched on the challenges of building large-scale Drupal sites and some possible directions for Drupal 8.