GNOME 3's pretty good, and if you want a task bar or some persistent menus on the side, there's no reason you shouldn't. The default interface works fine, too- nothing is perfect, but I think GNOME 3 is a big improvement over what we've seen before, from a variety of perspectives (the core interface, the app design guidelines, etc.).
I really think people blow things out of proportion and treat every small flaw with utter disdain and mistrust. We're all working towards a more impressive and useful desktop, and some are designed better or differently from others. But we've gotten to the point where we have a lot of good options, and their apps interoperate with each other better than one would expect. I hope it will keep getting better, but it is hard to get a unified experience with so many different kinds of apps. Still, Windows suffers from this fractured design much more than we do, and if things settle down a bit I'm sure we can figure something out.
The UX behind GNOME and elementary is arguably up to par with what people expect from OS X, so I don't think we're doing a bad job. People just need to keep their dogmatic idiosyncrasies out of the argument and not be afraid to use a little common sense. Even if you're right, that doesn't always mean you'll be successful, so a good interface has to be a combination of what is best for a human unfamiliar with computers, but still acknowledges the history and structure people expect from the interface.
After kde 4 replaced 3.8.x in Debian, I used it for 2 weeks and then I switched to gnome before I kill my self.
I knew that with the new gnome I would suffer death, but a less painful than kde.
i was switching DEs(heck I even used MATE for a while), more of them are lightweight, others have no packages, but all those until kde 4.8.x came to debian testing.
What I want to say is that, it might not be like the 3 version, as stable and as classic as back then kde was, but damn many bugs disappeared, staff were working as supposed to do and nepomuk was STILL a piece of shit.
The reason Torvalds is complaining is because he wants an out of the box tweaked DE, with the most common settings and let it just do its job.
Both on gnome and kde you got to do tweaks, where kde has the advantage here. You want to place new widgets? just drag 'n' drop them, you want more, they are 1 click away, same for the wallpapers, same for everything else. Instead in gnome there is only one way for most things, and that way is the hard way, which makes more people confused.
The reason why cinnamon is so popular is not because gtk, or the gnome name behind it or something similar, it's because it delivers something ready to use, almost full featured and makes most things to be 1-2 clicks away.
I personally want a solid classic desktop, a task-bar on the bottom, a fully functional notification area with the proper programs about network/system info and temperature and I get all of those with no sweat in kde.
The biggest issue that I have as a user who uses 3 types of layouts is that the qwerty to programmers dvorak(english) and native language switch is a pain in the ass and it does not work as supposed in most cases.
I cannot use alt+shift to switch layout because if I miss-press on of those keys I end up "writing" up in the menus(i lose focus) and also I cannot use ctrl+shift because every time I am trying to use paste in console, well ctrl+shift+V does not paste, it changes the language and then does nothing. i think it's xorgs fault and how it manages the keyboard input.
Gnome3 has come a long way, I've been using it since 3.2 (you know when you were still looking for the shutdown button) and It's currently my favourite DE by far. I do admit it did/does a lot of stupid things that need to be fixed however the developers do seem to be mostly aware of the short comings and are preparing to fix most if not all of them. Gnome3 to me is for users who want speed and efficiency. While other DE's like XFCE/lxde only bring traditionalism and speed.
I've always liked Thunar due to how lightweight it is and it's speed. I'm not in a position where I need to search for files often so I have no need to have a file searching system in my file manager. You might which is fine but me and a lot of other people prefer the speed of Thunar don't need everything integrated into our file managers.
.....I just use fluxbox :)
There's also really stupid address bar which is hard set to icons or text path and doesn't support automatic switching like in Dolphin or even Windows 7 file manager. I also miss the ability to throw all buttons and menus away like in KDE applications. I know KDE is slow and I'd like to get rid of it and get something faster but the tenths of second I miss doing some action in KDE can't compare to seconds I miss in other WMs.
Btw. I also tried using Krusader but it doesn't have a tree view where I can choose between expanding tree with right arrow or actually entering the folder with enter.