The Power of Second-Order Thinking and Understanding User Engagement


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 01, 2023

4 min read


The Power of Second-Order Thinking and Understanding User Engagement


In the world of product development and decision-making, two concepts stand out as crucial: understanding user engagement and embracing second-order thinking. These concepts, when combined, offer a powerful framework for making informed decisions and driving success. In this article, we will explore the significance of the Power User Curve and Chesterton's Fence, and how they intersect to provide valuable insights. By understanding the rationale behind previous decisions and analyzing user engagement, we can make better choices and create products that resonate with our target audience.

The Power User Curve: Unveiling Engaged Users

The Power User Curve, also known as the activity histogram or L30, offers a comprehensive view of users' engagement levels over a certain period. Unlike the traditional Daily Active Users (DAU) to Monthly Active Users (MAU) ratio, the Power User Curve provides nuanced insights. It reveals the presence of a dedicated segment of engaged users who return to the product every day. By mapping cohorts and analyzing the curve over time, entrepreneurs can assess the impact of product launches and track the performance of new features. Furthermore, the Power User Curve can be applied to various user actions, allowing for a deeper understanding of engagement and monetization.

The Smiling Curve: Indicators of Success

Success in product development lies in the ability to retain and grow power users. The Power User Curve, when observed over time, should ideally show a shift towards the right side of the curve. This shift indicates that users are becoming more engaged and addicted to the product. By focusing on this trend and investing in features that resonate with power users, entrepreneurs can drive sustained growth and increase user satisfaction. The Power User Curve becomes a valuable tool for identifying areas of success and determining where to double down.

Monetization and Engagement: Finding the Balance

Low engagement does not necessarily equate to failure if a company has effective monetization strategies in place. Some products, like investing platforms or professional networks, may not require daily usage from all users. Instead, they focus on extracting value from engaged users, even if their engagement is infrequent. The Power User Curve prompts entrepreneurs to consider alternative revenue streams and identify user segments that engage more frequently. By understanding the specific pain points that prevent certain users from experiencing the product's value, entrepreneurs can optimize onboarding and improve the overall user experience.

Chesterton's Fence: The Importance of Understanding Tradition

In parallel to analyzing user engagement, embracing second-order thinking is crucial. Chesterton's Fence, inspired by G.K. Chesterton's writings, emphasizes the significance of understanding the reasoning behind established systems or decisions. Before removing a metaphorical "fence," we must first comprehend its purpose. Often, systems or practices exist for valid reasons, even if they may seem illogical at first glance. By recognizing the potential consequences of our actions and respecting the knowledge and experience of previous decision-makers, we avoid unintended negative repercussions.

The Intersection of User Engagement and Second-Order Thinking

The Power User Curve and Chesterton's Fence converge to provide a holistic approach to decision-making. When analyzing user engagement, it is essential to consider the underlying reasons for certain patterns. Just as Chesterton's Fence teaches us not to dismantle a structure without understanding its purpose, understanding user engagement requires a similar level of second-order thinking. By combining these concepts, we gain a deeper understanding of user behavior and can make informed decisions that drive long-term success.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace second-order thinking: Before making significant changes or interventions, take the time to consider the potential consequences and understand the rationale behind existing systems or decisions. Avoid quick fixes that may worsen the situation.
  • 2. Analyze user engagement with nuance: Look beyond simple DAU/MAU ratios and adopt the Power User Curve to gain insights into the engagement levels of different user segments. Identify power users and invest in features that resonate with them.
  • 3. Optimize monetization strategies: If your product does not require daily engagement from all users, focus on extracting value from engaged users. Explore alternative revenue streams and identify user segments that engage more frequently. Improve onboarding and the core user experience to increase user retention.


Understanding user engagement through the lens of the Power User Curve and incorporating second-order thinking with Chesterton's Fence can significantly impact decision-making and product development. By embracing these concepts, entrepreneurs can make informed choices, optimize engagement, and drive long-term success. The Power User Curve and Chesterton's Fence remind us to respect tradition, analyze data holistically, and consider the consequences of our actions. Through these practices, we can build products that truly resonate with our most engaged users and create sustainable growth.

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