This is exactly the problem. The people who want to catch the next big wave in computing (eg. the semantic/social/3d desktop or tablet computing) have the desire to argue about these things, while the people who don't want their work environment disturbed, simply want to carry on with their work. This is why there are so many people complaining about KDE4 and Gnome 3 and yet there isn't enough drive to keep the old codebases alive as healthy forks. It's also a lot easier and less time consuming to shout "KDE sucks" than to get involved in a detailed discussion of the problems.
To be clear, afaict plasma consists of:
1. the bar at the bottom of the screen, which contains application launchers, status indicators, the "cashew", etc.
2. the desktop with its "cashew"
I don't particularly care if plasma is actually something else entirely. Those are the two items I have not been able to get rid of. If you could post a link to some instructions for running a kde session without those two things, but with an alternative panel, I'll gladly give KDE 4 another try. Ideally, I think what I would like is to have kicker from KDE 3.5 back, but without having both kde3 and kde4 libs taking up memory.
1. I don't want any wallpaper or icons on the desktop, or at least I want the option not to have it on my work PC. I also don't want to see the cashew or any of its plasmoids or transparency effects.
2. I don't want any fancy effects, save for seeing the content of a window while it's being resized or moved and anti-aliased fonts.
3. I don't want to toggle state on the panel to be able to move a launcher icon or add an application launcher.
4. I want the ability to right-click on the panel and add a launcher for any executable anywhere on the filesystem, with an icon in any of the common image formats, found anywhere on the filesystem, without changing into a special editing state.
5. I don't want any social or semantic anything when I'm trying to write code or fix something and I don't want it taking up resources in the background.
6. The multi-monitor support in 4.6 is broken. There were multiple times when KDE would corrupt some config setting and refuse to start. This happened when I had a second monitor attached before power-down (at work) and only the LVDS at start-up (at home). Recovering from that requires either a deep understanding of the config back-end or deleting the .kde4 directory and dealing with the unpleasantness that follows.
KDE might have improved in numerous ways between 4.2 and 4.6, but the things that caused me grief haven't improved afaics.
I find it ironic how new desktop environments like XFCE and LXDE have evolved to service the needs of the boring old farts who just want a lightweight desktop without the gimmicks, while the old projects are trying to attract new users and change the way their existing users work.