I don’t know if Aaron is an Ubuntu Developer. I hope not. And I hope that no one of the commenters is one. But this post and especially the comments to it (because the article may have some justification) is certainly not a way to improve the relationship between projects like Ubuntu and the projects its based on.
Yes, it is true, that we have a rough tone in our mailing lists and yes it is sad that every now and then topics pop up that need to be discussed till somebody is hurt and leaves (the project). I certainly hope that this can be improved over the time, but most likely this is not something which breaks the project. Who knows what its worth. We have a large community, very much different opinions and therefore conflicts. Possibly it enhances the quality of our distribution, because things that certainly would make our product worse (e.g. lowering quality standards) won’t get done, because they’ll get a strong opposition.
But whats the point with the innovations, Aaron? Is it the job of a distribution to serve with innovations? A distribution that serves as a base for more then 10 other distributions? A distribution that is known to care a lot about freedom and is known (and appreciated) for a high quality standard. I don’t think we need to serve innovations. We served innovations back in a time where it was needed. Where things were missing. Like a good package management, like conf.d directories. Apart from this I think there were enough innovations in the past years. Possibly not that user-visible and trendy as a graphical virtualization frontend. What about xen-tools for example?
Now its all about reinventing the wheel or developing frontends. Launchpad for example is just reinventing the wheel. Savannah exists, GForge exists. Bazaar is just reinventing the wheel. Git exists. So does Mercurial.
But whats most sad about your posts and the comments is that you (and your commentors) seem to share the opinion that all Debian does is packaging software and nothing more. According to you Debian developers do not fix bugs, forward patches, file (important) wishlist bugs, encourage upstreams to remove horribly broken licensed software, improve their own software and tools (dpkg, aptitude, apt-get, the devscripts, ….), do integration work (alternatives, $EDITOR usage, …), documentation work (writing manpages). The reality is that there are many small and greater things driven by Debian Developers that serve the whole community. Additional to the ground work that your favorite operating system is based on and without which it could not exist.
Its just not beeing doped like it is done by companies with their marketing departments that actually earn money with what they do. Take the projects you named. They all have one. They all have paid developers.