After my disastrous experience with Oneiric left me with an ugly and half-working xfce/compiz amalgam, I promised myself that when the next version of Linux Mint shipped with the erstwhile Gnome2 fork "Mate", I'd give it a go.
It shipped, and while it changed some things that I didn't need changing (like un-unifying the gtk3 application menus), the Gnome3 experience was still unfortunately pretty terrible. The Mint folks warn that MATE is still a beta quality experience (much unlike Ubuntu, who foist their broken shit upon the masses and expect congratulations for it), and that was unfortunately a bit of an understatement.
Mint's modified Gnome3 was a decent effort, but the most annoying things about Gnome3 were the muscle-memory workflow-destroying unconfigurable changes: auto-workspace-management, completely dominating the super-key breaking any other apps that might use it, lack of true HUD support, a clock/calendar app that ditched the world-clock which I actually came to rely upon to deal with coworkers in other continents, alt-tab switching apps and changing my workspace, and broken multi-monitor support when using multi-desktops.
What did Mint fix? Well, it got rid of the shared menu, it installed some necessary things like gnome-tweak-tool by default (and gave it the unscary name of "advanced settings"), and it made everything pretty attractive by default, and enabled icons on the desktop by default. This, given the previous paragraph just wasn't enough. So I started my search on the internet once more; I knew people were living with Gnome3, but how?
Gnome3, because of it puts its eggs all in a single mod-key-bound basket, requires graphics hardware acceleration to function properly. If that's not available, it runs in a fallback mode. Some clever people discovered that the Gnome3 fallback mode is better than Gnome3 itself, tweakable under Linux Mint to give an experience almost identical to Gnome2; specifically, you get two panels, with an applications and places menu, many of the same applets from Gnome2 (perhaps this is a 3.2 or a Mint addition because earlier adopters complained the applets were all gone), a functional world-clock calendar with weather, a functional heads up system monitor, proper window and virtual desktop management, and (what I wanted in the first place) python2.7!
The very last thing I got working was mousewheel desktop workspace switching; under CCSM -> Viewport Switcher -> Desktop-based Viewport Switching, I had Button4/5 bound to "Move Left" and "Move Right", which didn't function, but swapping them out for "Move Next" and "Move Prev" got it working like a charm.
Doubts remain about how much love this fallback mode will continue to receive from Gnome as they continue to work on their terrible full version. Hopefully the distributions can step in and start to fix the remaining niggles (the unattractively large top-panel chief among them), and perhaps some will start to ship a tweaked fallback mode by default.