My responses to this well composed post of GNOME constructive criticism.
Interesting and well written post. I am also not a gnome expert, only a user and part time developer. Here are some suggestions regarding each of the points you made;
Firstly a few general comments. Personally on Ubuntu Dapper Beta, Gnome is considerably faster than KDE in my experience, but this may just be a variation of the placebo effect!. Either way all the recent GNOME performance work has sped it up considerably since the version in Breezy!
Secondly I think a number of your points make the assumption that GNOME = Nautilus, or GNOME = Nautilus + Metacity. This is a common belief (or if indeed this is what you though) and incorrect. HOWEVER, this is why we must admit that proportionally a lot of polish must go into these two applications. I dont think that throwing features at Nautilus is the answer, it will also never be the GNOME answer, and I am thankful for it. But you do raise some good points, and ignoring any GNOME user is the wrong thing to do.
Now, point by point responses
Instant Messaging: Check out the galago desktop presence framework. While still on the horizon I forsee some form of integration between the entire desktop, gaim, and this as the glue
Voice Over IP: Check out ekiga. Maybe at some stage this may make it into core GNOME. Either way there is possiblity for integration with above.
File Sharing: I could not agree more. Apparently nautilus (gnome-vfs) supports rendevous discovery of shares and the like but I dont think this is fully taken advantage of (or I havent seen it in GNOME 2.14). Perhaps something could be done with cherokee web server + WebDAV + automatic nautilus discovery + gnome-vfs WebDAV + places sidebar. Edit- This was done here, but i think the project died.
Secure Shell GUI: This is already there. Check out Places -> Connect To Server -> SSH. I presume you can also enter sftp://user@server/path
More Command Line Tools: While I understand the problem you want to solve; easier access to command line. I dont think shoving everything into the file browser is the right way to go about it. If GNOME can think of a better way to interact with the command line in a modern GUI environment then this is a step in the right direct. Putting the terminal into nautilus I dont think so much.
Menu Editing: Ubuntu Dapper ships the alacarte menu editor. It has also been proposed for inclusion into GNOME 2.16. Its a step in the right direction.
Eye Candy: Do NOT open this can of worms. Personally I think the GNOME has KDE beat when it comes to eye candy. The eyecandy discussion will never be resolved. Its all a matter of preference, I like toyota, you like mazda etc. At the framework GNOME can draw nice graphics using Cairo, and fun things are happening FOR EVERYONE IN THE LINUX COMMUNITY, GNOME AND KDE using compiz and XGL or AIGLX. You do have some points, there are features coming into GTK to be able to detect if a compositing manager is running, but if I want GNOME to keep looking prettier than KDE (joke) then stuff needs to go into GTK to make this easier!
Conclusion I think that this is a very interesting time for GNOME. There is all this cool framework level stuff sitting there, simmering away, ready to be cooked into GNOME in some amazing ways. leaftag, galago, deskbar (and the buzz its generating), desktop search, performance improvements, compiz and XGL, and MUCH MORE.