the idea of this site is exceptional but it requires someone daring and open........how to break the ice??
That is a great link to share, Sean. I think the author makes a lot of great points about overcoming the fear of meeting new people.
The most interesting tip on that page was the idea of avoiding making a formal introduction. I think it is true that these kinds of introductions can make the beginning of a conversation seem a little slow and dull. It is important to remember that here on italki, your profile is public and the person to whom you are speaking may have already read where you are from and whatever else you include in your profile.
It's hard and it depends on the person. I try to start with very easy questions such "how old are you?" or "so, are you practicing English too?" (even if I have already read it in their profile). Some people trying to answer such questions open new oportunities to keep the talk alive. For example, you can ask about the reason they are trying to learn that language. That can lead to a lot of different possibilities. I also try to ask about their culture, trying to express some interest about it.
If the other person write short answers, then I try to tell them something about myself. That may give them more options to talk about, maybe giving their opinion (you can ask for it too).
If none of this things work, then I tend to thinnk the other person isn't interested in talking to me. In these cases, I just stop writing and start to look for someone else. I don't block or remove them from my contact list, because sometimes people just don't respond on time because they are busy with other things.
Thaddeus is right. The first thing you may do is to relax your body and mind before your speaking to a stranger. I am confident that preconception is not required and most people are friendly to practice with you.
Of course, privacy is an important issue to you as nobody wants to be disturbed or harrassed by anyone not acquainted, however, keeping too tight or overly emotional tensity is unnecessary if you were to speak to other language partners online.
Nothing to be done but start with your passion which is the one thing I can share with you. There is nothing to be scared but scare itself. Practice is the best policy to do something for self.