I'm just going to spit-ball here for a little bit. It'll probably result in me being called all sorts of names, but I'm used to that.
When I first started playing EVE, I did a fair bit of mining. In a game where trit sold for 4+ ISK per unit, it was an easy, low-effort way to make what to me seemed a decent income at the time. It required only a tiny bit of my attention, and most of the time I'd do it, it'd run in the background while I was doing something else. Watching a movie? Fine, I'll have the laptop on the table next to me and shift ore around every few minutes. Working on writing something? Same deal: the Hulk can do its thing on one of the side monitors. I anchored a lot of cans in a 0.7 system and filled them, then came back later and emptied them. Repeat repeat repeat. It was boring but steady ISK.
But this period of my EVE career only lasted about six months or so before I moved on to other things. I did a little more mining after I moved into a wormhole, to take advantage of the higher-value ores available there. But as I've covered before, even the draw of this faded fast. Mining itself is relaxing and low-effort, but the logistics support involved is painful. Two of my characters are able to pilot Hulks, and I still own two of them. But it's now coming up on two years since I've undocked in either of them.(1)
I occasionally think about selling them, but then part of me thinks "well, it was relaxing, and maybe someday I'll do it again." Another part of my brain thinks "Are you high? Even belt-ratting is better than mining." The two parts get into an argument, nothing is resolved, and the Hulks gather dust in the hangars. Why yes, that is how my mind works sometimes.
I don't read the EVE-O forums all that often -- the signal-to-noise ratio is usually unacceptably low for me. Still, a thread out there started by Mors Sanctitatis caught my eye with some suggestions on how to improve mining:
You can read the whole post if you like, but the bulk of it is stuff that's been covered lots of times in other fora: get rid of drone alloys, shut down T1 loot drops, change the asteroids in belts to visually show which ones are valuable and which ones are junk to make bot-mining harder. They're not necessarily bad ideas... they're just not all that original. Still, there's one suggestion in his post that strikes me as being very interesting.
A lot of people never mine in Skyrim, regarding it as a waste of time. And indeed, most of the time it is. But one of the interesting things about Skyrim mining is that every once in a while as you're doing it, the game will tell you you've mined a gemstone and you'll have a sapphire or a garnet or a flawless diamond added to your inventory. It's a nice touch! Sure, the ore itself is nearly worthless except as a means of raising your Smithing skill later, but Skyrim gemstones are a nice source of supplemental gold.
Mors suggests a very similar mechanic for EVE Online mining. Every once in a while as you mined, you'd come upon a super-compressed fragment of the asteroid that -- when uncompressed -- would be worth a lot of ISK: hundreds of thousands or millions of units of ore in that one small bit. The fragment would be dropped into your ship's cargo hold along with the rest of the ore mined during that cycle. He further suggests that there would be some kind of visual clue that would let you know which asteroids had a chance of producing this higher-quality drop, and that such fragments would be much more common in lower security space. And that one idea, I find quite intriguing! People who belt-rat do it for the ISK, of course, but the process is livened up by the occasional faction spawn... and the far-off dream of an officer spawn. And it's those faction and officer spawns that belt ratters often remember, not the drudge of the grind.
Why should mining be different?
It'd also be quite interesting from both ganking and logistics perspectives. Mors suggests that this super-compressed ore fragment would be quite small, and I agree with this approach. Say this suggestion were implemented. The Hulk you're watching suddenly turns and prepares to warp off despite having lots of rocks in front of him. Think it's time to break out the cargo scanner? ;-) In addition, I could see these super-compressed fragments gaining a value out of proportion to their actual mineral value since they could be transported into or out of null-sec in blockade runners instead of jump freighters. That might even serve to lessen a bit of the mineral compression problem.
It's certainly not the whole Bible on how to make mining in EVE less shit, but it sure strikes me as an interesting chapter! Thoughts? Is this the oldest idea in the universe, and I'm just so far behind today's EVE mining discussions that I wasn't aware of it?
(1) Well, scratch that. I undocked in one for about three minutes a couple of days after the new turret models were released to see what they and the new mining laser effects looked like. ;-)