You have to change the defaults to make it bearable, and you'd have to recreate a lot of the tools that the GNOME folks gutted because McCann and Clinton didn't decide to include modern desktop behavior, consistency, expected interactions, or critical user preferences to work around disability (automagic corner hotspots == vile and unusable), but it's probably less work and less jarring to users to do those than to replace the whole desktop.
Hell, maybe with some Mint-inspired dedication to the "classic" components in GNOME 3.0, they might even live on without being entirely ripped apart by the undefinable "GNOME 3 Vision" in the upcoming releases. (McCann and Clinton like to claim those components are "critical components of the GNOME 3 story," but what they really mean is, "our whole team was a bunch of dumbasses who rewrote tons of working code on top of an OpenGL-dependent framework targeted towards an OS reknowned for broken, slow, or outright missing GPU drivers, and our predictions of it all being fixed by GNOME 3's release proved to be total bullcrap, so now we need to half-ass support this old code so we don't immediately lose 70% of our userbase".)
(Yes, I'm being bitter, but when you get told by the designers that you're an idiot who doesn't understand the "Vision" when you bring up polite, well-argued points about literally measurable and quantifiable design problems, you kind of stop caring about being nice to the asshats.)
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