I think a problem lies in the perception that the numbers in components have some sort of "meaning."† A c01 can be a series or an item.† It is semantically incorrect to place emphasis on the numbering system at all.† Suppose you were to process your collection into two outputs for comparison.† For the first dataset, you strip out all the level attributes and only have numbered components.† For the second dataset, you replace all the numbered components with unnumbered <c>, but retain the level attributes.† Clearly the second dataset retains intellectual meaning.
I can kind of see how <c level="series"> may be a little more difficult to read than <c01 level="series"> if you are using a simple text editor like NoteTab, but it seems like renumbering a collection is a nightmarish scenario.† It seems as if there are not many institutions that use unnumbered components.† The EAD cookbook stylesheets don't work out of the box on a collection with unnumbered components, I think.† It assumes top level components are c01 and that template calls c02.† Any sort of machine processing is greatly simplified by getting rid of numbered components, and I think the community is trending towards using software applications to create EAD rather than a slew of workflows in which guides are manually made in NoteTab Pro or other such text editors.
We do <c>.† Archivist Toolkitís default output is <c>, not numbered components (although there is an option).
The main problem for me is not technological at allóitís really hard for a human being to read the code if you donít have cues like <c01>, <c02>, etc.† Otherwise, it works fine.† When our tech guy was creating our stylesheet, I asked him if having non-numbered components was an issue, and he said that it was not.† I believe, like you indicate, he just wrote the XSLT with the level attributes to differentiate.
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This could be different from what is under discussion here, but I've
seen "false levels" at multiple institutions while cleaning up batches
of EADs. As far as I can tell, the main reason component padding has
been done historically is for display purposes. Some processors in the
past may not have understoond CSS or didn't have access to the finding
aid CSS files.
For us, it was not a matter of CSS padding, it was problems that occurred during XSL transformation.† The XSLT we were using was a tweaked EAD cookbook stylesheet that couldn't handle a collection that had series with sub-series and series without sub-series.†† For example, we were working with many collections intellectually structured like:
c01†††† Series: Vessel Papers
†††††††† c02†††† Sub-Series: M/V "O.K. Service X"
††††††††††††††† c03††††† File: Manifests
††††††††††††††† c03††††† File: Captain's Logs
c01††† Series: Financial Records
††††††† c02††††† File: General Ledger
††††††† c02††††† File: Annual Reports
As I understood the problem, the XSLT we were using was not testing individual components to see if the attribute was series, sub-series, file, etc.† It thought all c02s were sub-series and would not correctly transform c02s that were files.† That might be a simple fix, but it was beyond our XSLT knowledge.† In the absence of a dedicated XSLT person to write the XSL test for us, we added "false" c02 layers to our series that did not contain sub-series so all files would be encoded as c03s.† We then uploaded static HTML files into the university's content management system, which controlled all the CSS.
It was less than ideal, but it got the job done.† I am especially interested in Ethan's comment about just† using <c> and @level.† Is anyone else doing this?†