There's no big deal about typing './configure; make; sudo make install'. Once. But have you done it for years with dozens, even hundreds of packages? And not all packages are like that - many of my packages have patches and complex './configure --this --and --that' lines and so on and so forth. And I know what packages depend on what because my needs are usually simple and I can keep it in my head, but installing a dinky little python script like 'trac', when it depends on clearsilver, sqlite, pysqlite, swig, and a specially compiled subversion (because Slack's uses different options) can be an adventure.
All in all, it can get kind of old. (Hence my taking another crack at Debian.)
Incidentally, doing the make/makeinstall routine and randomly rm'ing stuff isn't necessarily the best way to go. Many people use checkinstall and some like me use build scripts and makepkg.
On the other hand, it is very true that installing binaries is far less flexible. I have to build mrxvt even on Debian (just like I did subversion on Slackware) because the binaries don't cut it. Debian is far more flexible than some others, with several variants of several packages and highly split binary packaging, but you do lose a lot. Gentoo, with its use flags, is a whole different kettle of monkeys - package management that isn't binary. So the two aren't mutually exclusive.
Anyway - if I were possessed of infinite energy and enthusiasm, I'd say slapping in a solid base system with slack and compiling what I want on top is the best way to go. However, I'm a little tired and I'm resting with 'apt-get foo' and just seeing if I can live with it.
It is nice to just have the stuff installed with a command and have other people paying attention to updates. Not having to trawl freshmeat and various websites and whatnot. But going back the other way yet again, while adding a new package to an 'unmanaged' system can be a pain, it's not that bad afterwards, since it's mostly automated.
I dunno - I haven't actually messed with trac (to use that example again) on debian but, on arch, it was damn nice to say 'pacman -S trac' or whatever it was and just have it happen, vs. the long adventure of making it work on slack.
-- Damn, took me a long time to write that. I didn't even see MS3FGX's post, but agree with it. Occurred to me to add, that one downside of packaged and managed distros is quality control - if you use something like Slack and build everything else yourself, you know any problems are between you and Pat. (Or at least it was usually that way - it seems more and more of Slack is being contributed - no offense to the guys doing it, but it does sort of spoil the purity of things.
) Anyway - in most package-management distros, you've got an awful lot of cooks in the kitchen.