I've been on a long journey with Bitcoin. Having missed out in the really early days with my own mining setup, I started working with some faucet and cloud mining options about two years ago and shared my experience to get others on board. About a year ago, my quest came to an end, due to increasing mining costs increased competition. However, after some more digging and a general rise in the price of bitcoin, the newcomer and hobbyist may have an option to participate again.
As of Monday, bitcoin is back up to roughly $465 per BTC, effectively double what the value was when I "hibernated" from the quest. I still have my coinbase account (you should get one) and while there was no interest to gain while holding my funds there, I was able to "snowball" all my resources back into there with my whopping .010146 BTC (or 1,014,600 satoshis) all snug and secure. I had a whopping 8 bucks this morning!
I also ran across a nice comprehensive site named BitMakler. It has a funky name, but it does have a comprehensive overview of the cryptocurrencies, exchanges, mining pools, and other resources out there. They have even developed a method of testing out the various cloud services with their own test accounts and logging payouts, issues, complications, and the like. Extra data is quite convenient.
At this point I'm pretty convinced that faucets are a waste of time. While I had developed my own "tab, type, click" rhythm to get through most of them early on, faucets are so crammed full of ads that it's hard to track down exactly where to enter the details and a lot are multi-step faucets that make it not worth the hassle.
An interesting concept that I hadn't seen before is the idea of Funds / HYIPs (High Yield Investment Programs). Rather than being a mining platform per-se, they function almost like how a savings bond or something like that would occur at a bank. You give them X mount of bitcoin, and they will give you a return of Y% after Z days. Some of these systems wind up doing the mining themselves, and some of them front themselves as a mining setup, but ultimately there is no "hashing power" at your disposal. I thought about going with one of these, but personally there's something about mining that makes me feel apart of the process, even if it isn't on my own hardware.
After some more digging, I came across a platform called HashOcean. BitMakler gave them a positive ROI over the course of a year (yep, thinking long term here, even with my pennies) and there was a log record of recent activity to show that the service is active and paying out. Unlike a lot of other services, there isn't a huge buy-in to start. Most cloud mining services are requiring $100+ to start on a simple GighaHash (GH) plan. Since HashOcean is working at KiloHash (KH) levels, I was able to purchase a basic 20KH/h to start mining with for a whopping 0.01366 BTC, or approximately $6. I cleared out most of my CoinBase account on this, but it looks to be worth the gamble. On top of this, I received a 15KH/h bonus for signing up and purchasing right away, so that nearly doubled my hashing power. The estimate is that I'll recover my 20KH/h purchase in 3 months, which doesn't account for the extra 15KH/h I'll have working with me as well. It seems far better than the headaches I was dealing with cex.io near the end of my previous mining operation. I'm in the mining business again!
I still don't plan to retire off of this, but I'm excited to be partaking in the bitcoin "experience/experiment/craziness" once again. So far I haven't had to pull any money out of pocket either. You can get in on this as well easily now as well for as little as $10 (to make it a nice even number). Simply register for a coinbase account and deposit some funds into it (you'll need to temporarily link your bank account to this). Once done this will give you the BTC you need to go register at HashOcean and purchase at least 20 additional "hashes" to get you on your way. From there it's up to you! I'm planning on "recycling" all my profits back into more hashes for the time being, but there are plenty of services out there taking BTC payments (and donations) for which you can use your BTC with.
Finally, the hobbyist and "poor man" can take part in Bitcoin again!