Currently at the GNOME UX hackfest in London, where plenty of good discussions are happening.
One thing we discussed recently is removing preferences. Everybody loves when we remove preferences because it gives them a reason to vent steam, and we love receiving abuse (“- Are you being sarcastic? - No, I never am.”).
There's been talks of "TweakUI" type functionalities in the past, with no one ever showing up, and putting their money where their mouth is, and implementing it.
Taking a well-known MacOS application as a way to represent super-tweaky (or crack-rock, depending on which way you look at it) settings and preferences, Jakub (with help from the ever tweaking Hylke) mocked up “GNOME Plumbing”.
The honorable Vincent Untz has volunteered with implementing the settings pane for the gnome-control-center to go along with the changes in other capplets.
The reasoning behind removing settings is never made to antagonise people. There are various reasons, taking into account the increased complexity of preferences and settings, the ratio of people using such features, and possibly the maintenance costs of having more tweakable bits. Contact your local designer if in doubt :)
A lot of us had hoped that gconf-editor could serve as a crutch, hoping the community (in that case, the community of the more vocal people that complain about the changes) would handle creating the settings tweaker that was alluded to so many times.
We're hoping this will be the end of complaints when features get “moved” for design decisions.
PS: We copied a Mac app, not because it's a Mac app, but because it had the simplest UI for displaying seemingly unrelated settings, and making potentially complicated settings easy to understand. Thanks guys for making hard things easier.