The general feel, I find, is that PUGs suck, and no one likes PUGs. I do not mean the small little dogs, as they tend to be adored by many. There are people who dislike the little buggers, but generally not to the extent that has people spewing vitriol across the interwebs with enough fury to melt pixels.
Nah, what we're discussing is Pick-Up-Groups. And I'm here to be that small, tiny, sheepish, dissenting voice that knows it's about to get odd looks and patronizing tones, as well as questioning of its sanity. I understand this situation well; it happens every time I'm in Sidhe Devils chat talking about how much I enjoy world PvP and even being ganked.
I love PUGs.
Where else do you get to meet new people? Where else can you break out of the mold, of your clique, of your guild, and expand your network of competent people? Perhaps gain the respect of members of high ranking guilds who just need another? Or gain the interest of people who are looking at joining your guild? Or perhaps someone who will one day need just. One. More. Healer. for that run you've always wanted to do, but that no one will take you to because they want people who know the fight (rather than just having the skill to do it)?
Or even finding out which people to avoid, to not associate with, to warn your friends and guildmates about?
Of course, there will be PUGs you just cannot stay in. Someone grates on your nerves, someone is a jerk, someone just can't cut it and they're bringing the group down. I'll be the first to say that, even if it's to a lesser extent, that happens in guilds, too. In fact, it's worse when it's in your guild, in my humble opinion, because it makes leaving the unfortunate situation even harder. You will have to see these people again the next day, and the next, and so on.
And PUGs serve their purpose for a lot of people. They generally give me quick access to badges and reputation where I would otherwise stand around in Dalaran for an hour waiting for my friends to log on or wake up. They give me a chance to try new things without endangering people I know, and I can even help people out along the way. I offer to go help PUG CoS timed runs all the time. I won my mount my first time in there, and there's nothing but offspec gear in there for me; but it's quick badges and rep, and someone gets another chance at the mount.
Also, pugging with people who don't always bring their best has actually improved me as a healer. When I can keep a shaman up for five minutes against a boss in VH, when I can take down Heroic Loken with just myself and a tank...I think I've learned something. I see others' mistakes. I see my own. I see how things can work and how they can fail.
I've met amazing people through PUGs. Sannhet, another author on this blog, was PUGed into my first ZF run, and it was the start of a frankly amazing friendship. I have people whisper me all the time to see if I want to do runs or help heal a raid. Some are friends, some are acquaintances, some are randoms from trade, true, and some are people I've PUGed with.
I don't think PUGing should be knocked as hardly as some people do it. I've PUGed over half my experiences in WotLK, and my experiences have almost always been positive (almost). There were some bad ones here and there, but truly...
I just love PUGing.
(This seemingly pointless talk about PUGing brought to you by oshi-I-have-four-midterms-this-week.)