In these cases: The mention of teenager social cliques caused almost everyone to deliver their personal clique membership experience: claiming one, resisting them, etc. This accidentally proved my point about the power of that experience well into adulthood. The discussion of bloggable watercooler news stories got a lot of responses opining about the particular story that sparked my interest. In short, a watercooler was formed.
In both cases the general wasn't nearly as attractive as the opportunity to share the personal and specific.
I think I hit the "talk about the weather" organ again. I wonder where that thing is? I'm sure as hell not "above" it; mention the weather and I'll discuss it at length, and I'll bet I'd do the same on the other topics if I hadn't been the one with the less magnetic general questions.
So the next question is; what is the list of those topics? My first guess is that a lot of things about food, sex, and sleep would cause a similar response.