I started with the most common distributions like Debian, Suse, RedHat, Slackware and Mandrake. The problem was always this hunting for .rpm,.deb or tarballs from the developers website.
Some were packaging it as .rpm only some only .deb and others again only provided the source code in a tarball.
The apache1.2.blabla would only work with php version blabla and so on, there was no real version control.
Then came Gentoo and had the first really cool system to handle software installations (Portage), which was adapted from BSD system at that time. You could install, clean uninstall, handle config files and even had version control. You also always used the same tool to do it, "emerge".
The available software in the portage tree was always very big and if it is not there, write a bug report and or write the ebuild script yourself (not sooo hard, but barely documented).
Gentoo becomes a little like the unknown distribution behind other more fancy ones... like Debian is behind Ubuntu and CentOS is a "copy" of RedHat Enterprise and OpenSuse based on Suse, while Fedora is the testing ground for RedHat itself.
If you check http://oswatershed.org/ Gentoo is still one of the most up to date distribution to be able to report bugs upstream, rather than trying to fix the old versions of software to work with the rest of the distribution. (with the current ~unstable directly between Archlinux and Fedora).
In Gentoo, if I want to test or use something that is uncommon, I just do it. After all it's all about choice in Gentoo.
I do not have to wait until some developer builds a package or changes a setting for me. In reality every person who installs Gentoo is in some way [his|her] own developer, because only [he|she] knows what's going on in the system and what is installed in the first place. Gentoo is too flexible and customizeable to give generic support.
This is just some experienceof a Gentoo user :)