Supporting Free Web Tools
I'm amazed at how many good web tools are available for free. Atom, my current code editor, is free. Prepros, my preprocessor, has a premium option, but there's a free version with good functionality. Git, for version control, is free. Sourcetree, my Git client, free. Bitbucket, private Git repo hosting, for free. WAMP, for local site builds, free. I could go on... well I did go on there a bit. Many of them even give pretty decent support. However, I'm sure the makers of the free tools we use sometimes feel a bit like this person feeding angry snakes.
Those snakes need feeding, but they'll bite if they get the chance. Snake feeding man seems happy to feed the hungry, angry snakes, but if he gets bitten he's probably going to stop whistling and consider his career options. Likewise, makers of free tools and services seem to be happy to give them away, but many of the forums and support threads for them can be a bit bitey. Their makers probably have a threshold of grief they're willing to take before they decide to pack it in and we don't want that. So what can we do to make sure these tools and their makers endure?
Support Them In The Way They Want
Usually the best way to support any tool is to find out what the makers have requested. Some ask for a donation, often not more than the price of an average mocha frappuccino with marshmallows and extra sprinkles. Others encourage us to buy a premium option with a bit more functionality. If a tool is helping us earn money, isn't it worth spending some money on it? Some just want us to spread the word, perhaps by leaving an app store review or talking about it on social media. The simple and practically effortless act of tweeting about them, or re-tweeting their tweets, lets others find out about them and can help them build a good user base. Being active on forums by reporting bugs (be nice though), supporting other users and giving a bit of praise is also a relatively easy way for us to give a real boost to hard working devs.
If a tool is a regular and useful part of our workflow then it's worth something to us. So if support is asked for, giving it shows appreciation for good work and ensures that the thing we like using doesn't go away.