The New York Times continues to drop hints about the future of its digital content distribution plans, this time in the form of a beta site to preview projects its developers and programmers are working on.

“It's alive! http://beta620.nytimes.com is where NYT's developers conduct their experiments. Won’t you come in?” Cynthia Collins (@NYCcyn) tweeted after the site was launched over the weekend.

Among the early offerings were mashups to speed up and simplify searches on the newspaper’s Web site, a dashboard to showcase user-generated content on the site, and a mobile app for the paper’s crossword puzzle. The beta site drew instant praise on Twitter from journalists and developers alike.

“Smart. Newspaper @nytimes acting like a software / design company,” tweeted Rei Inamoto (@reiinamoto), chief creative officer at creative and technology agency AQKA.

The site follows the launch of a similar project, Beta Boston, by the Boston Globe’s www.boston.com Web site. The Boston Globe is a subsidiary of the New York Times Co. The launch also comes less than one week after the New York Times quietly scaled back its Times People social network.

The Times has since clarified its future plans for Times People, telling the Poynter Institute that last week’s move simply removes the Times People toolbar from the Web site and that the newspaper has plans to expand the social networking-like service this fall.