Debian always was known for its communication "style". There were even shirts sold in memory of Espy Klecker with a quote he is known for: Morons. I'm surrounded by morons. Yes, I bought me one of those shirts too in the early days. And there were the talks that promoted Debian as a place to have Goodflamewar training. And people considered that to be the fun part.
After some years it got tiring. It got stressful. It got annoying. Bad feelings popped up, stirred you into the next flamewar, and it went down the gutter from there. It was almost becoming impossible to not be the target of a flamewar when one was doing more than just basic maintenance. Snide and extreme terse responses became the standard.
In the end people are starting to give up and leave. The Ugly thing about this is that human resources are crucial. They aren't endless and can't be replaced as easily as broken hardware, especially when capable people or when people leave who invested an enormous amount of their spare time and effort. And given that a fair amount of people do put their heart into Debian, it feels like a small suicide to them and the public thinking about leaving is meant as a call for help which wasn't and isn't given.
The solution to this death swirl? I'm not sure. When one looks over the edge of the plate and ignores for a moment all the bad feelings they one might have built up against Ubuntu because of their success and possibility to find new contributors on a regular basis one is able to find a much friendlier and productive environment there. This might be attributed to the Code of Conduct about which I wrote about last year already and which is an extremely well intended and useful document (the point I raised in there is already solved for a while, so I became a MOTU). And even if it might be hard to follow it at times, Mark Shuttleworth reminds and encourages its contributors to stick to these principles even in tough times.
The result? When following the planets, one finds on Planet Ubuntu a very good rate of blog posts on things that had been done, compared to the good rate of blog posts of rants on Planet Debian. And even though people regularly complain about the communication style within Debian, the answers of this year's DPL candidates to the question about a code of conduct for Debian were rather rather disappointing. So it is just well too understandable that people go the path that hurts themself, take a cut and leave the project behind in its mess.
For myself? I'm not too far from that point on a regular basis, and I can understand those who did the final step only too well. Regular abuse, especially when doing stuff that others neglect on a regular basis but needs to be done anyway, being belittled on that grounds and not being taken serious and getting disrespectful responses isn't improving the situation. It happens to way too many people, and the only thing that still keeps me on tracks is that I do not want to give in yet, that I don't think that it would improve Debian to leave the grounds to various destructive people.