I'm a new player (5 weeks in the game), and flitted around many of the features in Eve, eager to try as much as I could. I guess I'm the intended target audience for the exploration feature, which invites you to discover, using probes, Data Sites and Relic Sites in which valuable items might be found.
I became disenchanted very quickly with Exploration, which I had read that CCP wanted to be a viable alternative to mining for new players.
Well, with mining I can make a steady few million per hour AND be AFK by using a Venture with two mining lasers in 0.9 or 1.0 systems (no rats). A quick glance at the screen from across the room every ten minutes or so keeps me informed and I can easily fly the ship back to the station, drop off the ore and head back out to repeat. Dull, but I can play with my kid, talk to my wife and make ISK at a steady, predictable rate.
Exploration requires my full attention, so it needs to be either more fun or more profitable. Instead, I found it frustrating. The process of finding and probing a cosmic signature that *isn't* Another Bloody Wormhole OR a combat site takes a while. Then I have to hope someone hasn't been here recently and cleaned out the treasures. And if the treasure is still there I need to play the hacking game, which feels very un-Eve...didn't I earn this treasure by scanning the site down? THEN comes the random can chasing where you hope you pick the right ones. I used cargo scanners but they often told me there was nothing inside. Was that a bug or was the game literally telling me there was nothing worth having in there?
I can't remember finding anything particularly valuable in around five sites (all in highsec), at which point I gave up. I can get similar, or better salvage/loot by running a mission and at least I get the pleasure of combat out of that.
Anyone wanna buy some Carbon?
[Update: Thanks to Kelleris for linking to me.]
[Further update 9/24/2013:] I saw a video by youtuber PodExpress about the changes to Exploration that, in his opinion, killed exploration.
In a nutshell, here's the problem: when you find an exploration site, you'd like to know it is chock full of treasures to be found because you're the first one there. A site that someone else has already found and partly looted USED TO despawn after a short time. So a "used" exploration site would disappear and not waste your time.
CCP made a change that made exploration sites remain alive until ALL the treasure has been taken. The effect of this is that explorers who have found the site before you will have taken the good stuff and left the crap behind for you to find (they use cargo scanners to identify which cans are worth hacking). But you can't tell this until you have spent time probe-scanning the site down and going to it. I'm still going to give it a try, now that I'm in low-sec and can use cloaks, but I'm going to look for systems with very little traffic in them, and hope I'm the first to find the sites.
[Final update: Sep 30 2013] I've written another post after finding more information outside of the game that makes exploration much better for me. I've posted to the official forums and hope CCP will change the game along the lines I've suggested. A couple of small changes could make this MUCH more accessible for new players.