Linux Mint 12 has just been released, and solves the problem by adding several components to the core GNOME 3 experience to make it look, work, and behave more like GNOME 2. They're called the Mint Gnome Shell Extensions.
"MGSE (Mint Gnome Shell Extensions) is a desktop layer on top of Gnome 3 that makes it possible for you to use Gnome 3 in a traditional way," the team writes, "You can disable all components within MGSE to get a pure Gnome 3 experience, or you can enable all of them to get a Gnome 3 desktop that is similar to what you've been using before. Of course you can also pick and only enable the components you like to design your own desktop."
I've dabbled around a bit in the final release, and at least in my experience, this is clearly not particularly stable or done just yet. It's slow, often unresponsive, and I've even had several components - both GNOME 3 and MSGE - crash. It's also a bit of a mess in the visual department - two different themes intermingling. It all has a very KDE 4.0-esque feel to it.
To satisfy those of us who just want a plain old GNOME 2 experience (for the love of god), Mint 12 also includes MATE, the GNOME 2 fork. I'm personally praying to the gods of computing that MATE picks up as much steam as possible, since I strongly dislike both Unity and GNOME 3 - whenever I use those two, I get the feeling like I'm fighting my own computer - and I'm not some sort of anti-change stuck-in-my-ways kind of guy, since you can give my any phone, desktop, or tablet, and I'll get by just fine.
So, MATE promises me GNOME 2, and that makes me happy. I like GNOME 2. It's elegant and understated, and at least in my eyes, very pretty. I never quite understood why GNOME 3 had to be so radically different, but alas, maybe I'm just stupid and don't see the light. Whatever. In any case, despite the warnings of lacking functionality and stability, my experience with MATE has been far more positive than with FrankenGnome3, GNOME3-proper, or Unity.
The final change I want to highlight is the fact that Linux Mint has a new search provider - DuckDuckGo. We covered DuckDuckGo in January, and all the benefits I outlined then still apply today. The partnership is sure to be beneficial to both Mint and DuckDuckGo.
Head on to the downloads page to get Linux Mint 12.