There, I said it. I Like Mindless Grinds.
Remember Silithus? Probably not. But those of you who do, you know what I mean. Texts and twilight cultist clothes. You know. I enjoyed that stuff.
Mining? Love it. Though I liked it more on the ground, when we'd mine thorium and terrain mattered.
I think WoW's problem is that it's not mindless enough. Rep grinding from outdoor mobs is mindless. Just relax and kill things. It's trivial. It's mindless, assuming you're not on a PvP server without a truce. By truce I mean how sometimes when there are plenty of mobs for everyone and we're all just there to get our rep, we don't bother each other. Of course such complacent people make easy prey...
How do you get rep now? Put on a shirt (sorry, tabard) and queue for an instance. Then you have to work as a team. Ugh. I'm not opposed to teamwork as a general concept, but as the only thing to do? Yes.
There are dailies of course, which give rep with no teamwork, but those aren't as mindless as I'd like. I have to go places. Multiple places. It's awful. Just give me a Twilight camp and a few hours, thanks. Even worse, they're dailies. Missed today? Well it's not as if you can make up for it. Mindless grinding is accommodating.
Aha, but didn't the old rep system make no sense at all, with weird pyramid structures of fewer mobs able to give rep at each tier but needing more rep each tier, so then you're hoarding scourgestones until revered? Yes. But that's an entirely separate issue. And if we really want to get technical, and grindy, outdoor mobs can drop minion scourgestones which will always give rep on turn-in, though I'd not use outdoor mobs for long. This strange rep structure isn't directly a problem of outdoor vs. indoor, solo vs. group.
Of course there is still the problem that the previously hinted at but not actually mentioned Argent Dawn rep couldn't be reasonably maxed out by outdoor grinding, making false my entire premise that vanilla and BC were better because of outdoor mindless grinds. But there is another element to the indoor grouping: shared goals.
When players at least have the same goal, it makes it easier to deal with needing to pay attention. In the case of the Argent Dawn instances, we often had the same goals. Reputation was one, since of course we're not getting it from running some other instance. When everyone has an interest in rep, or at least enough people currently and enough people remember, we're not quite so afraid of trash. Similarly, when rep is the goal, killing all bosses makes sense. It helped that the instances in question weren't big on optional bosses and had tier items stacked on the last bosses.
Contrast this with current groups where we are likely to have different, and possibly incompatible goals. Tabard guy wants rep. Blue guy wants gear. Overgeared douchebag tank wants badges because he keeps wiping on raids because he's undergeared. Or maybe they're all on the same page: badges. In that case, speed is the only way to go, so fast fast fast but wait, things can still kill them, so if they go too fast they're dead.
Haste, anonymity, and needing to pay attention are a bad combination. Unless the goal is stress. Trying to quickly getting something complex done with total strangers is a great way to induce stress.
So I suggest this: remove badges and replace them with something better (this will be for another day); remove tabards and make instances give reputation for a specific faction and add add outdoor mobs that give reputation. But won't this make people stop running instances once they have the gear? Probably. Is that a bad thing? I don't think so. Is that going to leave new players with no groups? I don't think so. WoW isn't exactly dying and there are always alts, so with cross-server groups I think queues will remain manageable. Assuming the tanks don't all leave when bribery ceases entirely. But that's another problem for another day.