The problem is that it's not just configuration changes.
Actual stuff is being stripped away. Bugs are being not-fixed because they're in "compatibility components" that the gnome devs don't care about. Whole reams of features have been stripped out or just left broken. The new control center is a usability abomination, half-browser and half-doesn't-ever-work. Metacity's compositor has been broken for over a year and the bugs I file get closed as wontfix "we don't give a shit use mutter or go away."
It's a lot more than just uninstalling the gnome-shell package and setting a few gsettings keys. Especially as the code gets stripped out for the features and layout the gnome guys don't want anymore. Like locking gnome-panel into looking and acting solely like the gnome-shell panel (which is the crux of most users' complaints with gnome-shell -- its "panel" is utterly useless).
The gnome guys want gnome-panel to disappear entirely. They want Nautilus to lose its ability to manage the desktop window. They want Metacity to fade away. They aren't doing this right away _solely_ because gnome-shell/mutter require OpenGL and the Linux graphics stack still sucks so much. If it wasn't for their incredibly poor technical ability (just make mutter/gnome-shell work over cairo, they don't need OpenGL for anything they're doing, and cairo can be hardware accelerated for image scaling if the graphics stack supports it) and the inability for Linux to get decent graphics drivers then gnome 3 would have already completely eliminated the actually usable gnome 2 UX.
In terms of future-looking, that's what I want. Gnome-shell is not the future, at least not the future of desktop PCs with large monitors and mice rather than tiny touch-based screens. The community can't do those things if the core components are bit-rotted and thrown away.
We don't need or want gnome-panel. We need an updated, evolved, cleaned up gnome-panel. A gnome-panel that gnome won't accept or have anything to do with, even if I submitted all the code directly to them. Metacity needs a new, stable compositor, that can use xrender or opengl depending on hardware/driver capabilities. Nautilus needs its desktop window support to actually be expanded and bugfixed so that it's not obnoxious as hell to use on multi-monitor screens and renders and arranges dekstop icons intelligently and has a desktop menu that actually does something useful.
That all requires forks, because gnome won't have anything to do with improvements to any of those components because they're just there for fallback mode until they can finally force the unwanted gnome-shell down everyone's throats and then stop maintaining all the old desktop components.