NightCafe is one of many AI art generators now available on the internet. The following is my personal experience with them, and my own, personal opinion. As with everything, your experience may vary.
Hello, here’s the FloxMonster™ again. Sometimes in this blog I write supportive articles, sometimes sales-based ones, and occasionally I do a “review and chew” one. This is one of those. Today I am reviewing NightCafe, based in Australia. Just so we know who we’re talking about… since I will not link to their website… they are a minor online company which makes AI art. Here’s their contact information, as listed on pitchbook.com and other public sources online:
Owner/Operators: Angus Russell and Elle Moule
Email: [email protected]
2E Trundle Terrace
Cairns, Queensland 4870
As always, I try to give an honest depiction of the situation. Therefore, today NightCafe banned me from their service, even though I am a paid “Pro” subscriber. As nearly as I can tell, this is the reason:
I created this picture using NightCafe’s service, to join their daily contest for which the theme was, “Generational Wisdom.” They wanted pictures of grandparents reading books to children, apparently. Well, this is a picture of a traditional Papua New Guinean funerary rite, by which they passed the souls and knowledge of loved ones to the next generation.
NightCafe didn’t like it.
This image’s backstory is a school paper I wrote when 11, about a former tradition of the “Fore” tribe in Papua New Guinea called Ritual Endocannibalism. In that now-abandoned practice, the families would consume portions of the deceased in order to literally, physically preserve them forever. This is what I described in the above picture’s caption. Now, to Western society, this is uncomfortable, but we must try to recognize that in this way, these families were protecting their loved ones’ memories. (By the way? I got an A on that paper.)
At any rate, apparently anthropology is a bannable offense at NightCafe . . . at least that’s my guess, because I never received a clear answer, and the site is such a morass of censorship and madness–in my opinion–that I will probably never know.
Threats and Bullying from NightCafe
ETA: NightCafe’s operators emailed me after I posted this, announcing that much of my content is offensive, and threatening me with the following, quote: “To any public lash out we will respond with the truth of the reason for your account’s suspension.” I find this baldfaced attempt at bullying to be rather amusing, for there is nothing illegal in my content, and certainly nothing by which I am either ashamed or offended. Furthermore, I have published the supposedly “offensive” content in multiple places–most of it months ago–for everyone to see. Promoting it would actually bring traffic to my website. No, I will continue to tell the truth about NightCafe, including their nonsensical censorship, despite their threats, thankyouverymuch.
So let’s talk about that censorship! When I first joined NightCafe in November 2022, I didn’t notice much at first. It actually seemed like a normal (read: sane) website. Then gradually I began realizing I could not use certain words in the “prompts”–that is, the words you give the AI to make it draw pictures. Even stranger, the words were really random ones, like “ball” or “boy.” So I wrote to support, saying, “Hey, what’s going on?” They replied, “Oh that’s the censorship filter, don’t worry, we’re working on it.”
The Censorship Filter.
NightCafe’s Censorship Filter Costs You Money
Over the next several months, the “censorship filter” got more and more out of control. Remember, this was supposed to be a good thing–it should be a positive goal to filter out curse words, or adult body parts, or NSFW content. Sure, why not?
Why not? Because the “censorship filter” started negating legitimate pictures. For example, I would try to make a photo of the rounded Virginia mountains, and it would blank them out–I guess it thought they were women’s breasts? Or I would try to generate a picture of a beach ball next to the ocean, but I couldn’t use the word “ball” . . . and sometimes the people on the beach would be blanked out, because they were in bikinis. I cannot tell you how many credits I wasted because of that Censorship Filter.
And credits mean money, because NightCafe makes you buy them, once you use up the handful they give free. Credits are what you use, to pay for your art there. NightCafe says they refund you for the images that their system blanks out–but that doesn’t include the dozens of credits you waste trying to stumble around the words you cannot employ.
NightCafe Imposes Censorship On Your Profile and Descriptions
So I have shown how NightCafe imposes a strange sort of censorship when it comes to creating art on their website, first by limiting “prompts” (words) and second via the backend, when their system automatically blanks out images. There’s another way censorship creeps in.
When you make a picture at NightCafe, you can also make it visible to others. When you do so, however, you have to be very careful what you type in the caption. You cannot use certain words or the image gets “auto-moderated” (their word, not mine) meaning that others cannot easily see it until a human moderator approves it.
I stumbled across this “auto-moderation” system numerous times by accident. One example that sticks in my mind is my Meat Loaf piece. I often use lyrics from popular songs as prompts, to see what the AI generates from them. One day I used Meat Loaf’s seminal work: “Bat out of Hell.” However, when I made the results public, it got pushed to the auto-moderation queue. I was genuinely stunned. The word “hell,” buried in the lyrics, apparently triggered the Censorship Filter.
That song has been played on the public radio worldwide since 1977.
NightCafe Censors Your Private Chat
Censorship also applies to NightCafe’s lackluster “chat” feature (which appears to be in permanent Beta state). While talking to your friends, there is always an “auto-moderator” listening which blanks out any words with which it doesn’t agree. A couple friends and I had a private room, in which we chatted every night. The “auto-moderator” would interrupt us whenever we accidentally used a mild word like “crap” . . . and it did so, by hiding the entire paragraph. The three of us were all consenting adults, and no one else had access to the chat, so that rather quickly became annoying.
As the weeks passed, though, the auto-moderator became more intrusive. The list of blanked-out words became longer, and in some cases stranger. Two days ago, it blanked out an entire paragraph which contained the word “butt.” That’s right: BUTT. As in, “pork butt,” or “the rams butted heads.” Even in the context of, “sit on your butt,” this is a word which mothers and Kindergartners use openly.
At this point, you may be thinking I am being overly picky. I can see your point of view. However, I have given these examples as single points of a much larger picture. It is the sheer mass which you must experience, to understand. After you publish a dozen pictures, and they get auto-moderated or removed for reasons that a grade school teacher would not even smirk about, you begin to wonder what’s going on.
NightCafe does as NightCafe Wishes. Will You Risk It?
To conclude with the censorship section: I am reasonable, and I can grasp NightCafe’s view. They are in business, and it is their website after all. They simply don’t want porn or bad words there. That’s absolutely fine. I take no issue with that.
What I take issue with is when someone opens a huge umbrella labeled, “No Offensive Material,” then decides on a whim what “offensive” means. Or when someone decides to ban a paying customer without explaining the offense, and without giving any kind of prior, written warning. That’s standard procedure with any business, and failure to do so is simply not acceptable. (In my case, for example, they sent an email the day after they banned me, then claimed it was “prior written warning.” No dice, guys, it’s timestamped!) If a government tried to do that, everyone with a suit would sue.
So I lost my money, my account, and all the art in it, directly due to their whims of censorship. What do you think about that? Are you willing to take the risk with NightCafe?
NightCafe is -really- Expensive
Yes, I did mention money a few times above. Let’s chat about that. On top of all that censorship, NightCafe is really expensive! They advertise that they offer free art, but to my perception this is what law enforcement fondly refers to as a “bait and switch.”
Again, I would remind you that these are my personal experiences and opinions. Your own may vary.
Here’s how it works: NightCafe offers you five (5) credits for logging in each day. You also get a couple if you vote in the contest, and jump through other hoops . . . however, on closer inspection you will see that there is fine print attached to all of those. For example, one way to earn points is to “Post an Image to Twitter!” What they don’t tell you is that you need a minimum number of followers in order to get those points. (I know this by direct experience; I posted on Twitter, did not receive the posts, and asked why. Then found out the fine print.)
So you get 5 to 7 credits daily if you jump in the basic hoops. Okay, great! So let’s make some art.
Guess what? It costs 1 credit to make a single picture . . . and that’s a very low-quality, basic one. If you want to make a better-quality one, that costs you another credit. If you want to make it bigger? Another credit. If you want to make 4 pictures together? Oh, that costs more than 1 credit!
Do you see where I’m going with this?
In addition, because their system is poorly designed (in my opinion) it also takes many attempts to create a decent image. You will spend your basic 5-7 free credits just trying to make one basic image that doesn’t look like Rorschach’s nightmare.
Furthermore, if you’re making pictures too quickly, the system will give you a timeout of several minutes, during which it tells you to use credits in order to proceed. Sorry, buddy, buy credits. More credits. More credits. During my research for this article, I encountered one (also-banned-without-warning) reviewer who described NightCafe’s moneymaking techniques as “a gamification system.” On reflection, he is absolutely right. It is gamification in the same way that a slot machine lures you into feeding it money while keeping you distracted, so you do not notice how much you’re putting in.
On the surface, credits look inexpensive. They average three cents each. However, what that does not convey is the vast number of credits you need to make any decent-quality art using their system. On a typical piece, I would spend between 25 to 100 credits, easily. So that’s $0.75-$3 per art piece. And you’re paying that higher price for slower performance and far lower quality than what is available on competing systems like Bing, Mage.Space, Adobe Firefly, etc (see below).
My conclusion is this: NightCafe is set up as a monetary “gotcha!” system which lures you in with an offer of “free credits,” then nickel-and-dimes you down until you’re forced to buy more credits just to make a few half-decent pictures. Just like that slot machine into which you keep feeding quarters, until you realize your checking account is empty.
If a friend asked me whether they should use NightCafe, I would advise that friend:
Avoid NightCafe like Covid and green Jello combined.
I consider NightCafe to be a den of shocking censorship, as well as a very poor investment in a badly-run company using slow servers with grossly-outdated AI models.
But that’s just my personal opinion. Since I have a degree in Art, and have been doing this since the 1990s. You know. That kinda thing.
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