A. His point is not lost on me. Gnome 2 was a work in progress also, just not like, these.
B. That fact that Gnome 2 has stopped, this way, is the problem. When you say Mate is a work in progress, I take that to indicate it's new forked nature, and the need to work out bugs. Mate seems to have less issues than other well established DM's, even though it's a fork.
C. The real question is, why were we left with nonworking (to a superior degree) products? Forcing people to adapt to other desktops, to get stability, is asinine. I just thank God, for people like these, with Linux Mint, who are attempting to sort it all out.
As to your Debian reference, Deb stable (Deb standard Gnome 2) is indeed the place to go, for Gnome 2 users/refugees. One can use back-ports; to get newer programs without even needing to compile them. I doubt there's anything else you'd miss, but on the odd chance there is, compiling from source is easy, in Debian. This is not mixing Debian tiers. Never mix Debian tiers, and don't run testing unless your a geek who likes to fix things. This makes newer apps, part of your Debian stable tier. Just use [search for] exoodles, and smxi scripts to get you to Ubuntu/Mint finish, levels.