Today's Wednesday Factoid is: How do you start a conversation?
Depends on the context, of course--is it in person? Online? Real-time or through letters? Friendly conversation or a business inquiry?
But in general, conversations I want to start begin with intention. I usually don't have a need to talk to people just to talk. Obviously family and friends are an exception--I start conversations with them without agenda pretty frequently, just to see how they're doing or because they want me to listen or update them--but if the conversation is with someone I want to converse with about a particular topic or I want to ask them about it, I'll start with a polite greeting and immediately say why I am talking to them.
One of the many reasons online conversations on, say, online dating sites fail is that the initiator doesn't give the respondent anything to talk about. They just say hey. Or what's up. Or point out something generic about a recent holiday or the weather. So if I'm talking to someone, I immediately say the reason I want to have the conversation. It could be as simple as finding out they like writing and asking them what they write, or pointing out that they're wearing a shirt featuring my favorite band and getting into a chat about concert experiences or other musical tastes.
I like to start conversations based on what I have in common with someone or what I suspect I have in common with someone. I'll ask specific questions to put the other person at ease and invite them into sharing an exchange of information with me, and chances are we'll both enjoy the experience.