Re: Two sided
Though, it's probably not as frightening as it once was, pretty much everyone will know someone (that at least knows someone) that runs Linux for something these days. I am that guy, and the increase in interest over the years has been steadily increasing...there was a noticeable bump when the Steam Deck became available.
Also, in my bubble at least, I'm seeing a large uptake in the older generations...over 60's specifically...they all want a machine that "just works" that "allows them to surf the web" without "worrying too much about viruses" and that can "check their email".
Linux is perfect for this use case, and doesn't get in the way at all...more importantly, it allows these people to keep hold of their existing equipment for longer. Which is a big deal right now, because this area of tech has a certain level of reliance on old second hand stuff being sold out of the back of a techies car boot (for a nifty fifty, plus the odd £20-£30 in support a few times a year) and with second hand kit becoming much less common and a lot more expensive, making your old machine last that bit longer becomes that much more important.
My old man has been using Linux since Ubuntu 14.04 and he very much looks forward to new releases of Ubuntu coming out, he is not technically inclined and never has been...but the excitement around an upgrade for him is comparable to the old Windows 95 days...nobody ever gets excited about Windows upgrades now because they've got used to them making your machine slower, less functional and more confusing...whereas Linux is going the other way, you tend to get new, interesting features, it generally gives you a small performance bump and best of all, doesn't cripple your machine.
Weirdly, my old man is also a big fan of Gnome, he's tried many desktop environments over the years out of morbid curiosity (I didn't prompt him at all) and he always comes back to Gnome. KDE is too busy, MATE is a bit old fashioned (in his opinion!), XFCE is too fiddly and "in your face" apparently and tiling window managers are <manc accent> fucking stupid </manc>. What he likes about Gnome is that he can have a dock at the bottom with all his applications on (so he doesn't have to go searching for them) and that it's pretty much out of the way most of the time. I typically agree with him as well...I personally prefer Gnome because it's the only desktop environment that doesn't go out of its way to be a desktop environment...if that makes sense...very few bells and whistles, mostly out of the way, distraction free and it very rarely breaks (unless you go down the pointless extension-geddon route).
Personally, I find Gnome to be absolutely adequate for what it is. I'm not a massive "desktop ricer", I usually just make minor tweaks to the appearance purely for functional reasons, very rarely aesthetic reasons, and I just want the DE out of the way...I spent most of my time in IDEs and terminal windows anyway...my terminal is heavily customised and tricked out, but again for functional reasons with some very light aesthetics, mostly the aesthetic touches are to remove some of the shit you get by default than add to it (I'll never understand those massive, wild, prompts that people setup that take up half the damned terminal window...
At most, aesthetically, I turn off the borders, disable scroll bars, setup a mono space font (currently Fira Code Mono), reduce the prompt to just the name of the folder I'm in with some git symbols, swap out BASH for ZSH and apply a nice background. That is about it. Everything else I do with tmux and various command line tools...I don't need to be visually bombarded by CPU usage charts, fucking instant messenger indicators, update indicators etc etc...it's completely unnecessary.
Same applies with the top bar in Gnome. I have the clock in the middle (with the date), a volume adjuster on the right, network connectivity indicator and a power button...I don't display more than the title of the currently launched app in the top bar (I hit the Super key to get an overview if I need it) or god forbid...ALT+TAB.
Having spent more than a sensible amount of time browsing /r/unixporn on Reddit, and tested quite a few of the "rices" out...I can confidently say that pretty much every custom "rice" is sheer style over function because hardly any of them are usable as daily driver setups...they look great for a screenshot, but in actual use, they are absolute trash. So is the lack of extreme customisation on Gnome a bad thing? No. Not at all...is extreme customisation an advantage over Gnome? No, absolutely not. Is Gnome just fine out of the box, the way it is for most users? Absolutely.