The latest DnD Next blog post talks about character traits that have no mechanical impact. Background, fluff, flavour, whatever term you use. It takes an approach geared very much to new players who have no idea what making a character is about and uses a clue by four to teach them what they should do. For example, it has you roll 1d8 to determine a trait which could be things like: Quotes religious texts constantly, hates rough living, tries to convert others to own religion all the time. A lot of it sounds like rolling to see how exactly you character is going to be annoying and piss off all of your friends but since that is the heart of roleplaying a lot of the time I think all is well.
While the examples provided are very narrow I think this is a really good thing to have in the base book. No matter what fluff advice you provide advanced players will ignore it so it is by far more useful to gear it towards completely new players and provide a starting point. Back in my days of gaming in high school most characters really were just a couple of ridiculous quirks designed to get a laugh and that is a fine way to start seeing a character as a personality instead of a matrix of integers. Making the leap from computer or board games where winning is the thing to a game where just playing is the goal takes some doing and I think this is a good way to begin.
I actually did something somewhat similar in Heroes By Trade. My version is different though because it is designed to help you figure out your circumstances rather than your traits. In HBT there is a rolling system to sort out things like friends, enemies, family circumstances, wealth, and other external parts of your history. Obviously these things can mold a personality but it is also possible that they just provide plot hooks. The Next version goes a step further and helps build your character traits themselves. That isn't a thing I want to do particularly as I think getting players to do a bit of creative work figuring out some character traits based on circumstances is more fun and leads to greater engagement. However, if all you want is a super fast system to get a newbie into a dungeon crawl then the Next version is a good way to do that.
I hope the organization of the books is better than some previous versions of DnD. Roleplaying guides should be in the Player's manual and endless charts and descriptions of specific world building elements should be in the GM's manual if you need to include them at all. I remember the old 2nd edition books that had huge amounts of room in the Player's manual devoted to the details of various kinds of ships, the differences in design between the seventeen polearms you could choose from, and other ridiculous indulgences while things like how to divide treasure or resolve problems between characters were in the GM's manual.
This week Next gets a thumbs up. Not exactly the way I would do it, but I think this is a really solid way for them to do it given what they are trying to do.