I'm not talking about the release notes, I am talking about all the blogs and so on (planet kde) that were written before 4.0. Only a few months (max 2) before the release of 4.0, I saw a sudden change that it was a development release. The message switched, and not everyone noticed the change. It never got the impression that 4.0 was considered a development release from the start. Not sure what you mean with press release, those things you write yourself as a project (I guess misunderstood importance to highlight that bit?).
And what I mean with liking GNOME 3.0 is that I consider it really stable and not a development release. But it needs some time before it really shows off the ideas. Meaning with Contacts, Documents, Boxes (3.4), crash app, etc (see http://afaikblog.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/gnome-design-up...). At the moment the extra applications are pretty simplistic. The plan is to launch an beta extensions website on Dec 1st. So finally something that (IMO) blows away the tweaking possibilities of GNOME 2.x. I do think 3.0 and everything that followed is the right timeframe though, it is useful to feedback on 3.0, not 3.0 with hundreds of extensions.
Could've also not released 3.0 and 2.32 (2.32 was only released because 3.0 was not good enough at that time), kept developing without releasing anything for a few years (e.g. not everyone agreed to doing a 2.32; it required time that people rather spent on 3.0). I think "release early, release often" dance is good. That is how you can still change things. If you change fundamentals late, it is just very hard and requires loads of time to adjust.
Also saw some notion that distributions switched too early, but most non-rolling release distributions seem to only provide GNOME 3 as of 3.2. Exception is Fedora, but that distribution is well known to give the latest technology asap. I run Mageia myself, and the latest stable (v1) provides GNOME 2.32 (IIRC); v2 will have 3.4 (+systemd:). Mandriva completely got rid of most of their packages and only support KDE. Opensuse only switched with 3.2. Seems like a normal acceptance cycle.
Regarding forcing, we've ported metacity, gnome-panel at 3.0 and gnome-applets as of 3.2. Various big changes occurred during 3.0 (simplification of System Settings and put the rest in a tweak tool), but I saw that maintainers wanted to do that for years. Only by announcing 3.0 maintainers saw it as a go-ahead (so they first simplified System Settings, which triggered the start of gnome-tweak-tool). But the maintainers could've done the same during any 2.x release. During 2.x it was delayed because someone had to write a tweak tool; in 3.0 it was done and as a result someone wrote the tweak tool.